A year after launching its first all-electric scooter, Bajaj Auto is now ready to open bookings for the Chetak in 24 more cities in FY22, after having been forced to initially restrict them to just Pune and Bengaluru.
Bajaj could not open bookings in more cities as planned because of the disruption in supply of the battery cells powering the Chetak. These cells were to be procured by Bajaj Auto’s India vendor from Wuhan, the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in China. Bookings for the Bajaj Chetak are still closed.
Speaking to Moneycontrol, Rakesh Sharma, Executive Director, Bajaj Auto, said: “We have not yet reached the stage to add more cities at the moment, which is a bit disappointing because we have been hit by supply chain issues. First it was electronic components from Wuhan and then there was the COVID-led impact. Then post-COVID there was a surge in semiconductors, which again caused interruptions. Because of this vulnerability in the supply chain we have been very cautious about reopening bookings for the Chetak.”
The Chakan factory near Pune restarted producing the electric Chetak from June onwards after output came to a complete halt around February. Production was again hit in December perhaps due to the global shortage in availability of semiconductors, a crucial component required for the software programmes controlling an electric vehicle.
“We got a very good response. We have 50,000 registrations right now, which is basically an expression of interest from buyers who are waiting for the bookings to reopen. We certainly want to reopen bookings of the Chetak and be faced with good demand,” Sharma added.
China controls nearly three-fourths of the world’s lithium-cell manufacturing capacity, according to a BloombergNEF report. This is even as a handful of automotive companies have started work on installing battery-cell manufacturing plants in India. Even as battery packs are developed within the country the cells still have to be imported.
“We are hoping that these issues will get ironed out over the next 2-3 months and we will get back to our agenda of not just servicing bookings in Pune and Bengaluru but we have a master plan of going to two dozen cities in India in the next financial year”, Sharma added.
Priced at Rs 100,000 (ex-showroom) the Bajaj Chetak is one of the most expensive electric two-wheelers available in India and much higher than the most affordable Pulsar, the most popular bike brand by Bajaj, which has a price tag of Rs 70,000.
Deliveries of the Chetak, with six colours and two variants, commenced from February-end and again after the lifting of the lockdown. Only customers who had booked the vehicle have received deliveries. Around 13 dealerships in Bengaluru and four dealerships in Pune were earmarked for retailing the e-scooter.