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Bajaj Scooters to End Production

Wednesday, December 23, 2009
News earlier this month that Bajaj Auto would discontinue its scooter line made very little headlines in the US. The Indian manufacturer isn’t exactly a big name here in the States, but Bajaj is a major player in its domestic market and abroad with annual two-wheeled sales of more than 2 million last year. Those impressive figures, however, were generated almost exclusively by Bajaj’s small-displacement motorcycle line. As such, it is reported Bajaj will shutter production of its final scooter model, the Kristal, by the end of March 2010.

Bajaj Kristal
Bajaj Auto will discontinue production of its final scooter model, the Kristal, by the end of March 2010.
The decision looks sound on paper. Bajaj’s reported sales for April through November 2009 show 1.58 million total two-wheel sales (Bajaj also sells three-wheeled units). Of those, only 4084 were not classified as motorcycles. The drop off is dramatic from earlier in the decade. For the fiscal year of 2002-2003, Bajaj sold 1.25 million two-wheeled units, with 383,776 not classified as motorcycles.

The current preponderance for Bajaj motorcycles over scooters was not always the case. Bajaj scooters were once ubiquitous symbols of Indian social status. In particular the Chetak - an immensely popular model originally based off of Vespa designs before Bajaj developed an in-house version - couldn’t be made fast enough to meet demand.

Multiple reports in the Indian media have decried the loss of the Bajaj scooter brand and its nostalgic association with middle class mobility. Most reports point to improved economic conditions and new Indian prosperity as the reason for Bajaj’s scooter decline, with a corresponding shift in taste from utilitarian scooters to motorcycles and automobiles.

The mixed emotions over the Bajaj announcement extends to within the Bajaj family itself, as father and son clash over the decision in the Indian press. Father Rahul has expressed dismay over the move, while his son Rajiv, who officially took control of the company in 2005, maintains it is in the best interest of the firm.

And those best interests are in motorcycles, as Bajaj set its sights on Honda Hero and retaking its position as the leading sales manufacturer in India. To this end Bajaj continues to expand its range of production motorcycles like the Pulsar and Discover lines, as well as entering a partnership with Kawasaki to sell the Ninja 250 in India.

Bajaj also owns a considerable stake in KTM, continuing to increase its shares of the Austrian firm from the initial 15% bought in 2007. In February of 2009 KTM announced Bajaj's stake would increase from 26.22 to 31.72% as the two OEMs work together to develop water-cooled 4-stroke 125cc and 250cc engines.

Bajaj’s US distributor, Argo USA, had no comment on the discontinuation of the scooter line.

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andy -well MIKE  February 21, 2010 06:27 AM
..you are so stupid , it hurts !! KTM should buy HD and take it out...lol

Milwaukee mike -Undisirable faction  February 6, 2010 11:27 AM
Undesirable Faction -Especially Reliable  January 21, 2010 10:41 AM
You know its kinda sad when ignorant myopic people blather away on the internet slagging somebody's ride just because its not the same one they've chosen for themselves. Bajaj has had a long history of making fine 2 and 3 wheeled transport. That market has changed and as sad as it is to see them drop out of scooter manufacture at least they have the business sense to make competent decisions to grow their business during a time when many companies are doing quite the opposite. Sad Mike, I'll be riding my Bajaj for many, many years to come. Thanks to the great quality built into the design. Oh and before you get all tangled up in your flag waving, you best check again what's between your legs, lots and lots of parts made outside the US of A. For now Bajaj is satisfied with the small displacement market. I won't be surprised to see a future with Harleys made in India. After all, its all about the Rupees.
Sumanster -Go easy on Mike, folks  January 18, 2010 01:54 PM
For all we know he might be stuck in a wheelchair, and inciting flame wars via his burly, xenophobic big-bike rider fantasy image might be the only thing that keeps him going. Don't take that away from him! :)

Seriously, though, I have to thank Mike for sharing that moped rally video; there were many bikes I had never even seen before. If there's one thing I love about our sport, it's the incredible, beautiful diversity of riders and machinery both domestically and internationally. The more people (of all stripes) on two wheels (of all forms), the better for all of us who ride.

Regarding the original article, talk about the end of an era. Bajaj ending scooter production is akin to Harley ending Buell production - the volume was allegedly too low to justify the production/distribution costs. Hopefully enthusiasts will keep their machines on the road for many more years.

Ride safe and long, everyone!
milwaukee mike -typical scooter and moped riders  January 15, 2010 11:50 AM
Turboglx -Adios Chetak!  January 14, 2010 03:23 PM
I am from India and appreciate the nostalgia associated with the passing of the Chetak. There were years when you 'booked' a Chetak and waited your turn for upto a year and a half to receive your scooter. The Chetak was a tad more frugal than the competition (Lambretta, Allwyn Pushpak and the Vijai Super). However currently, there are quite a few nifty scooters available in India. The Chetak's time has come and gone.
Tim - - Mike  January 13, 2010 01:29 AM
Why should the foreign corporations do worse than the US ones? Just because they were quick on their feet, ran more efficient operations or offered more to the buyer for less? So our pig-headed hogs should stay, occupying space on the road but hardly moving (when they eventually start up, that is), while the bikes with top notch technology should be banished forever? Get real buddy.
Gabe -Muttonhead Mike  December 29, 2009 06:28 PM
Ah, Michael! How long have you been riding Old Son? Forty years ago when I started, it was about "Getting The Wind In Your Face!" Not how you did it....And, still is! You probably should be sentenced to putting a sleeping bag, tent, and bags on a Yamaha C3 Scooter and have to ride it from Miami to Los Angeles! I think that by the time you got into New Mexico, your attitude would be somewhat different.... Hang in there! Gabe
Gabe -Chetak Scooter...  December 29, 2009 06:19 PM
If what you're doing has quit working. Look back to the point that it was successful and do that! Maybe Dad should buy the rights to manufacture the Chetak from junior and have a go at it!
Kanban -Muttonhead Mike  December 29, 2009 01:56 AM
Mike thinks that anyone who rides anything but a Harley is an undesirable faction.
king richard -milwaukee mike  December 27, 2009 10:17 PM
love yr high-brow contribution,so who exactly make up the undesirable factions of the country? and why should "those foreign corporations suffer far worse than our own industries"?
milwaukee mike -Good riddence  December 26, 2009 06:03 PM
Maybe now we will start to see less of this stupid scooter mania. Especially unreliable, goofy stuff made in third world countries that appeal mostly to certain undesirable factions in our country. God bless the USA, and may those foreign corporations suffer far worse than our own industries have.
Fred M. -I think this is a big mistake...  December 24, 2009 04:34 AM
Bajaj is making a big mistake. Scooters are judged on a totally different set of criteria than motorcycles. It's simply not as technically competitive.
Jonna -Bye bye Chetak  December 24, 2009 02:48 AM
It is nice to see Indian motorcycle news appear here on MCUSA. This is the second time I have seen you report news about the sub-continent. As for Bajaj, their best interests are in motorcycle alright. A round of applause to them for finally bringing the Ninja 250 to the Indian shores. They however shouldn't altogether discontinue their scooter range. Honda makes a killing off that segment.