The first thing Rajiv says is that - Chetak has attracted attention globally. Dealers in Latin America, Europe and other locations are interested. Also there is constant demand for Chetak in India. Bajaj sold around 9000 units in the last financial year. So demand is not a problem. He says supply chains are not robust enough and thus production seems to be the real issue for Bajaj.
I respect his statement on the need to focus on RnD and customer experience. That kind of thinking comes from deep experience and focus on quality, which Bajaj is known for. He also says that scaling is not a priority now and he plans to keep Chetak numbers low. I can applaud him or I can be cynical here. I can applaud him for taking a measured approach towards EV’s as this new technology and it’s better to go slow, master the technology and then scale up in a large manner. Why scale up like OLA electric and let customers face issues with software, build quality, etc.? Or I can be cynical of this move. Essentially Bajaj are artificially keeping Chetak production numbers low thus raising less awareness of EV’s so that he can delay the EV movement, which in turn ensures his ICE motorcycle business is not affected.What do you guys think?
Back in 2020 when we visited the Chetak experience center at FC road in Pune, we were told that the swing arm motor and the battery pack were imported from Bosch. It looks like the Chetak’s being delivered this year will have a Made in India battery pack which is fantastic news. From our sources, we got to know that the battery pack is being made by ‘Varroc’ a Bajaj family company, that supplies automotive components.
We still are not sure about the motor and controller, but Bajaj must have localized them too. And ofcourse, with all this localization, the Chetak now qualifies for the FAME 2 subsidy.
- The Ex-Showroom price of the Chetak to set at a whopping Rs 1,94,061
- FAME 2 subsidy of Rs 43,500
- In states like MH, you get a state subsidy of Rs 10,000
- The onroad price is Rs 147,064 which is not cheap.
Then our esteemed CNBC journalist gets into 9-10 cases of EV fires that have happened from mid 2021. Yep. Chetak uses NMC cells and we could see a Chetak catching fire. You never know when thermal runaway happens in a pack for whatever reasons. I like how Rajiv responded in a very candid manner, seemed humble and did not mock the fires that are happening unlike what you see with petrol head auto journalists on twitter. From our observations, every EV fire is party time for Petrol head auto journalists.
Mr Bajaj blames EV traders, he calls them Upstarts, we call them EV traders. EV traders or Upstarts are companies…
- They import entire scooters or vehicles from China. They then remove those Chinese components from the scooter and add components from Indian Vendors. Hero Electric, Okinawa, PURE EV, Ampere are all big names who do this. The entire model of removing components and trying to shoehorn Indian components in the name of localization is disgusting, there is virtually no integrated vehicle design or development happening. It is amazing that these companies have got FAME 2 subsidies and are certified.
- Then there is another set of companies who import the entire vehicle from abroad and have not even bothered to start their localization process and are selling them in India.
We do know that the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MORTH) has completed their investigation into the fires and have found defective cells, issues with the BMS and reports have been submitted to the EV manufacturers. Also there are talks to create more stringent guidelines with cells, BMS in the coming future. In my opinion, all of this is positive. There should be one standard for cell quality and one world class BMS schematic made specially for scooters that can work with all scooter brands. This can help these EV traders do better, instead of relying on some random Chinese off the shelf BMS or some low quality cells. The time has come for the government to help these traders. What more do you guys think that can be done to help our EV traders?
Then our esteemed CNBC journalist asks Mr Bajaj if these fire incidents will hurt EV sales. That was a reasonable answer by Mr Bajaj. EV demand will continue. In India most people care about money savings and EV’s offer that. And people are not dumb. Many people realize that Electric vehicles are not known to catch on fire at a higher rate than petrol vehicles, but EV fires do get more attention in the media. Despite some 80 odd Tesla fires since 2012, they are statistically safer in the real world, with fewer accidents per million miles and fewer fatalities as per data.
The CNBC auto journalist talks about fires even when talking about the fantastic growth of EV sales. Surely he is told to do that. Anyway, Mr Rajiv Bajaj responded by saying he is not interested in scaling up right now. They will gradually increase production and are won’t be competing with the numbers of OLA or Okinawa who are the leaders at this point.
- There won’t be updates to the Chetak in 2022.
- There may be upgrades like a bigger battery pack, enhanced range in 2023.
- There won’t be any electric motorcycles in Bajaj’s portfolio
Bajaj only expects 10% of their portfolio to be EV’s by mid 2024.
- In other words Bajaj wants to ensure that 90% of the vehicles they sell will be oil guzzling, air polluting, noisy ICE motorcycles.
Paid Auto Media - Total Bias against EV startups
I want to highlight one more point. This is about the journalist at CNBC-TV18. This is the same guy who interviewed Mr. Varun Dubey of OLA Electric back in January this year. I will link both the interviews for you to watch. Just observe how the tone of this journalist was aggressive when he was interviewing the OLA executive. He always interrupted Varun and never allowed his guest to finish answering and the entire interview felt like a session to spread EV negativity.
And look at the difference here. Here is calm, almost afraid of Rajiv. No hard questions were asked to Mr Rajiv Bajaj. Only soft balls were thrown.
- Here we have Bajaj, a company that has more than 15,000 CR in the bank and why are they not willing to work on offering even a single electric motorcycle to Indian consumers?
- Can Mr. Bajaj explain the inflated price of the Chetak?
- Can Mr. Bajaj explain how the base ex-showroom price was changed multiple times to ensure the FAME 2 and state subsidy is not passed on to the customer?
Many Chetak owners have got a notification that their mobile app won’t be supported anymore.
- When you say Chetak is the world’s best EV 2 wheeler, how about explaining the absolute disregard for software by abandoning your app? Do you even understand what an EV is about or understand how important software is?
None of the above questions were asked to Mr Rajiv Bajaj. Unfortunately our so-called auto journalists are not journalists anymore. They are just stenographers or PR for the BIG ICE companies. We all know who is greasing the palms here. That is the sad reality of journalism in India.
But worry not EV community and owners, these petrol head journalists or paid media agents cannot hide their agenda anymore. People can see through their games and the paid anti EV agenda. Their time is over!