“Lot of interest” for Bajaj Chetak internationally; exports may begin in 2022

Bajaj Auto sees immense potential for the Chetak electric scooter overseas, and is just waiting to streamline domestic sales before activating exports. After restarting sales and expanding its availability to 24 Indian cities next fiscal, the company is likely to begin shipments overseas.

The Bajaj Chetak is an expensive vehicle for an emerging market, compared to petrol-powered models. However, in many European countries, the price could be deemed competitive even with the additional export costs. Last month, a Business Standard report said that Bajaj Auto would like to start exports of the Chetak after expanding its availability in India in the September quarter. “There is lot of interest in the model in several markets, but it can’t be done unless it has a rhythm going in the domestic market,” Rajiv Bajaj, MD, Bajaj Auto, has said, as per the report.

It’s been over a year since Bajaj Auto launched the Chetak electric scooter in India, but the company hasn’t been able to normalise production. The COVID-19 pandemic and the geopolitical disputes with China have disrupted the supply of critical components, only to be followed by a shortage of chips, and because of these factors, the company has had to suspend bookings.

Bajaj Chetak side official image
The Chetak electric scooter could serve as an affordable alternative to the Vespa Elettrica in Europe. Image: Bajaj Auto

“Through a combination of localization and vendor development, we expect to iron out hopefully all these vulnerabilities in the next 2, 3 months,” Rakesh Sharma, Chief Commercial Officer and Executive Director, Bajaj Auto, told analysts during the Q3 FY2021 earnings call last month. “We expect if other things remaining the same, there is no more supply chain shock, we will by the time, by this time next year, towards the end of FY ’21/’22, we want to be in top 24 cities of India,” Sharma added on the Chetak’s business plan.

KTM’s interest in Chetak is logical as Europe is one of the fastest-growing markets for electric vehicles, especially two-wheelers. With a compounded growth rate of 26.6 per cent, the European electric scooter and motorcycle market is expected to reach Rs. 6,406 crore ($892.4 million) by 2025.

Eric Vas, Head of the Urbanite Division at Bajaj Auto, said last year that KTM AG evinced interest in launching the Chetak in March 2020 but Bajaj wanted to supply first in India, as per an autocarpro.in report. Besides desiring to ride the Chetak into Europe, KTM AG wants to develop its own electric scooter on the Chetak’s platform and sell it in India at a premium price. Bajaj is already working on this model, which will be a performance-oriented version of Chetak. Finally, Husqvarna is developing its version of the Chetak that will be unveiled later this year.

India has proved to be one of the best growth markets for KTM. Bajaj Auto is now managing KTM and Husqvarna’s presence in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and a part of South-East Asia.

Husqvarna Akrapovic exhaust
Husqvarna is working on a performance scooter based on the Chetak’s platform. It is expected in two variants – 4 kW for the standard and 11 kW for the performance variant. Image: Husqvarna/Akrapovic

In India, the EV market, on the whole, is still in its nascent stage with most of the sales coming from scooters that have a motor less than 250 watts output and a top speed speed of less than 25 km/h. Last year, Bajaj Auto sold just 1,337 units of the Chetak in India, but has recorded 50,000 registrations or expressions of interest, signifying that the untapped potential is huge.

The Bajaj Chetak is driven by a 4 kW motor and gets a range of 85 km in Sport mode and 95 km in Eco mode. Chetak’s Lithium-Ion battery does not support fast charging or is swappable, and can be charged to 100% in five hours and to 25% in an hour.