Rajiv Bajaj: Govt wasting taxpayers money by subsidising cheap Chinese EVs, sees better scope for CNG bikes

Despite all the pushes, the EV two-wheeler penetration is not even 2 per cent of the over 9 lakh a month domestic market, said Bajaj.
Bajaj Auto CEO, Rajiv Bajaj
Bajaj Auto CEO, Rajiv Bajaj(File Photo)

PUNE: The highly-outspoken Rajiv Bajaj, the CEO of Bajaj Auto, was at his best free and frank talk, that, too in the presence of the Union transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari at his Akurdi plant near Pune. They were present at the launch of the world’s first two-wheeler powered by the greener compressed natural gas (CNG).

Rajiv and his late father Rahul are known for not mincing their words when it comes to issues regarding the industry, politics or society at large. Rajiv was the only industrialist to speak openly against the Modi government’s unplanned and cruel lockdowns clamped down on the entire nation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic when the total number of infections were not even 500 across the country.

His late father Rahul, despite being an avowed Congressman, was the first to speak openly against what he called the policy and administrative paralysis that plagued the second Manmohan Singh regime.

Rajiv’s worst riposte was on the brouhaha about the EV push. “Where is the EV (electric vehicles) party that you are telling me that I was late to join or where is the EV bus that I have missed,” was his curt response to a query from a reporter.

“The government is wasting taxpayers’ money with EV subsidy under the Fame scheme. The real beneficiaries of this scheme are the Chinese suppliers (to around 300 domestic EV two-wheeler makers), who are dumping nothing but cheap stuff. Despite all these pushes, the EV two-wheeler penetration is not even 2 per cent of the over 9 lakh a month domestic market. So which party have I joined late?” he quipped.

He went on to add, “Given the many apprehensions about the safety and range of these EV bikes/scooters as almost all of them are made of Chinese rubbish, I don’t see much future for EVs.”

Moving on to the potential of his CGN bike – Freedom 125 - he exuded confidence that the industry and trade will not respond to the way a section of them did 25 years ago when Bajaj Auto launched the world’s first CNG fired three-wheeler as there are over 6,000 CNG stations around the country—90 per cent of them in the top 300 cities which are 75 per cent of his market now as against just one CNG pump in Delhi then. Today 90 per cent of the autos are run on CNG and 80 per cent of them are Bajaj-made, he added.

“Given this market potential and given our expertise and runaway success with the CNG auto, logically CNG bikes should have much better market potential than EV bikes and scooters,” Rajiv said.

Bajaj Auto CEO, Rajiv Bajaj
Bajaj launches Freedom 125, world's first CNG-powered bike

The incident he was referring to was some auto drivers attacking a Bajaj dealership in the national Capital to protest against the CNG auto-launch. This happened amidst the government's push to take all public transport in the metros to CNG even though the fuel supply was not in place. Auto drivers were waiting in the pumps for 10-12 hours, thus losing the savings they would have made by way of filling up much cheaper CNG which was then priced at around Rs 12/kg.

Though he said the potential market for the Freedom CNG bike is 6.5 lakh/month (the 125-cc or entry model bikes constitute that much of the 9 lakh market) if the entire automobile ecosystem works together, he ruled out becoming another Vijay Mallya or Kingfisher Airline.

“I am an auto-maker and that’s the best I do. I don’t want to get into something where I have no expertise. To put it another way, you know well what happened to Vijay Mallya after he launched Kingfisher Airlines,” Rajiv told another reporter who asked him if his company will launch CNG stations at least key markets.

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The New Indian Express