Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Chetak rides into the sunset

And with good reason, since it was well past its use-by date...

"... Bajaj Auto has finally written the epitaph of the scooter that is an icon of post-Independence Indian industry, and perhaps also a waspish reminder of its arrogance. The company’s Akurdi plant rolled out the last Chetak two days ago...

(Says Rajiv Bajaj, MD, Bajaj Auto)... “The consumer has given up on the product. Except minor tinkering, it had remained unchanged for more than 30 years"..."

A symbol of the protected, licenced era of Indian industry (if we could call it that) Chetak had waiting period of years in its heyday. Chetak was a rehash of the Italian Vespa and in those days it shared the roads with other similar recycled vehicles like the Premier Padmini and the Ambassador. Today it is a product nobody, not even its manufacturers, want. This is one more of the old symbols of India passing into history. Bajaj, today, is known for its Pulsars and Eliminators than for its scooters. The picture on this page couldnt be more symbolic.

2 comments:

Anand said...

On the topic of unchanging designs - you might want to look at the ubiquitous autorickshaw and note the design changes (rather the lack of it) in its history. In the passenger section, there are a couple of parallel bars that form a part of the frame over your head, and supports the black canvas. If you're slightly tall, your head WILL bang against these bars whenever the auto passes over a roadhump or a pothole [and I dont think we need to get into discussing the probabilities of THAT happening ;-)]. TO THIS DAY, this design has not been changed! And if I'm not mistaken Bajaj is still one of the biggest 'auto' makers in the country! Go figure!

Neelakantan said...

The auto is one of the sad stories of Indian roads and it represents less of Bajaj than of our policies. It is a slow, unsafe vehicle and really should be relegated to golf courses or tourist rides, but it is also politically a line for the unemployed (even though the permits/ricks are owned by the rich guys). Malaysia or Indonesia (which one I am not sure) has banned these. The sad part is that three wheelers are growing bigger and more dangerous in the passenger and the goods segment and they are hazards on highways for all practical purposes. We need to get rid of three wheelers from our roads, and I will post about it some time.
Regarding design changes, one thing, for every industry that was not exposed to competition, there has never been any design change. Mahindra plodded along its Willys design of 40s vintage, Premier auto with its Fiat Delite of 50s vintage, HM with its Morris something of a centry ago and there were many others. The constant excuse was, there is no market, but truth is they were happy milking depreciating design plant and equipment.