It makes me wonder (as I have in the past) if any automaker in America could sell such a low-cost, limited-ability vehicle. Imagine a $5,000, brand-new car, very basic transportation with limited speed and options. It’d have to be highway capable…but could it be done? And more importantly, would people buy it? If I could get 5 solid years out of a $5,000 car, I’d be pretty happy. How about you?
As one of the world’s fastest developing economies, India’s middle class is expanding as fast as its billion-plus population. That means more people with the means to buy a car, which is why Tata Motors introduced the $2,500 Nano over a year ago. Now Bajaj, another Indian car company with ties to Nissan and Renault, has introduced their own low-cost car…though their principle market is rickshaw drivers.For the uninitiated, rickshaws are three-wheeled scooter-bikes that are extremely popular over in India. Many newer rickshaws run on compressed natural gas, delivering up to 80 mpg as they are little more than a few seats an engine and three wheels. Rickshaws are the most popular private vehicles in India, and represents a huge segment of the “car” buying population. The new Bajaj vehicle, called simply the RE60, is aiming for the rickshaw-owning populace by offering luxury amenities, like a fourth wheel, and a roof. According to Indian Auto Blog, the RE60 will run on standard petrol, but due to its low weight (400 kg/880 lbs) and low horsepower (about 15-20 horsepower from the 200 cc, 1-cylinder engine) the RE60 can deliver up to 82 mpg and extremely low emissions.With a top speed of just 70 kph/43 mph, and its very small size and utilitarian looks, the RE60 is a step up from the standard rickshaw, albeit barely. The price point is estimated to be about $2,750, compared to the Nano’s price of $2,600, or the average rickshaw, which runs about $2,200. A few hundred bucks may not seem like a lot to your or me, but it can mean the world of difference to an impoverished Indian family. And many Indians might not be able to justify the extra cost of seatbelts or full doors.
- Green News Roundup: Thursday, January 5th, 2012
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