Polaris may benefit from new Quadricycle class of vehicles
The debate about whether or not, and which form the Quadricycle should take in India is raging as Bajaj Auto pushes for a new category to be included in the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, while Tata Motors, and Maruti Suzuki have either opposed it, or suggested changes to the quadricycle classification's definition.
On the sidelines, Polaris, the ATV major is quietly looking at this discussion. Polaris currently sells their ATV line in India. Private sales are usually made to individuals who understand its utility value for farm use or recreation and are willing to spend the money buying one. But the catch is that ATVs cannot currently be registered in the country as vehicles for road use. Which means they can be awesome fun on the farm, but going to a friend's farm requires a pick up truck or something like that to actually transport the ATV there.
OVERDRIVE met Pankaj Dubey who heads Polaris in India and asked him if the quadricycle rules that are reportedly already past the in-principle approval stage hold a potential opportunity for Polaris or not. His response was that the current form of the rules is a subset of the full set of rules that, for example, Europe has. These rules govern among other things the technical specification of the vehicle, the emission and other norms it must meet and so forth. Dubey says the current form of the rules will not directly benefit Polaris. But if the full European quadricycles rules were to be implemented, then definitely it would help Polaris with its Indian operation.
Where are they road registered you may ask? Apart from some states in the USA, Europe seems to be the only place on Earth where an ATV can be registered for road use. This is because in Europe, both paved and unpaved roads can be public roads, which in turns means that plying upon them requires a registration plate. Which is why for the past five to six years (according to the ATVEA, All Terrain Vehicle Industry European Association), ATVs have been registered as quadricycles in the L6/L7 categories but with a sub clause that says these are for recreational use.
Is registering ATVs for road use a good thing? Well, the simple answer is that it allows owners to travel short distances on our road network but the vehicle itself is inherently intended for off-road use. Most owners, even abroad, where ATVs do get registered for road use, do not use them as daily commuting options. That is an exercise in sheer self-punishment because most ATVs are tremendously difficult to ride on tarmac - they require way too much physical effort. So we at OVERDRIVE do not believe that allowing ATVs to be road registered is a significant issue for other traffic users or the traffic infrastructure, it is simply a matter for convenience for the small group of people who own ATVs.
As an aside, Polaris Industries (USA) recently acquired Aixam Mega (France) which is among the world's largest maker of on-road quadricycles and also makes a range of light commercial vehicles. When the full European quadricycles rules or some subset thereof are implement in India, Polaris will have to consider if these French mini-cars (that is what they look like) will find a market in India or not.