Bajaj Chetak - Bajaj's Legendary Journey From Inception To Rebirth
Bollywood films are renowned for their fascinating reincarnation stories that can keep you on the edge of your seats. Hence, it was no surprise when Bajaj Auto announced the launching of its iconic scooter brand, Bajaj Chetak, albeit in an electric version.
The name Bajaj Chetak immediately brought back nostalgic memories for the older generation, especially those born in the sixties and seventies. As the present generation does not know the significance of the name, Bajaj Chetak, we shall go down memory lane and relive the unforgettable journey of the Bajaj Chetak from its inception to rebirth.
People who were around in the 1970s and 80s will recall that they were prepared to wait for ten years to get the delivery of a Bajaj Chetak. Such was the popularity it displayed at that time. Yes, one could say that riding a Chetak used to give an appearance of lording the roads.
The early 70s was the period when you could not see many vehicles on Indian roads, leave alone the two-wheelers. Bajaj had a couple of its offerings, the Bajaj Super and the Bajaj Priya, to name a few. Bajaj Chetak saw the light of day in 1972 when the company modified the Sprint model manufactured by Vespa. It was possible because Bajaj had a technical alliance with Vespa.
Everyone who has read India's history knows about Chetak, the valiant horse of Maharana Pratap that saved the king from certain death in spite of it being fatally wounded in battle. Chetak was the synonym of loyalty coupled with high endurance. The name suited this scooter because it was a robust vehicle with perfect balance.
Bajaj Chetak became such a popular vehicle that the manufacturer had a tough time catering to the demands of the market. One could recall that automobile manufacturers could not increase production suddenly. The Licence Raj (1951 to 1991) ensured that the demand was always overwhelmingly higher than the supply position. The gap was such that people had to wait for nearly as long as a decade to take delivery of the vehicle. The best part of it all was that people were ready to do that.
The Bajaj Chetak design was an appealing one. It had everything that a top-class scooter should have. Nobody can forget the Bajaj Chetak specs such as iconic round-shaped headlamp and the tyre size (3.5-10). The Bajaj Chetak was indeed a family scooter with the entire family riding on it.
The popularity and demand for the scooter were such that Indian grooms used to demand the Bajaj Chetak as a part of dowry (an unfortunate Indian social practice). There are instances of marriages being canceled because of the inability of the bride's family to gift the Bajaj Chetak to the groom. Though it is a dubious distinction, it just goes to show the immense liking or demand that people had for the Bajaj Chetak.
Bajaj Auto always has a reputation for maintaining the highest standards of quality in every vehicle they manufacture. They could never compromise on the quality levels with a scooter as immensely popular as the Bajaj Chetak. Hence, you would rarely see a Bajaj Chetak visiting the garage, except for repairing the odd puncture or two.
The Bajaj Chetak sales performance completely overshadowed those of other Bajaj bikes, though the Bajaj Priya and Bajaj Super were excellent scooters in their own right.
One must admit that the Bajaj Chetak engine was the best two-wheeler engine available at that time. Such was Bajaj's mastery and control over the scooter that Bajaj never used to manufacture motorcycles during that time.
The early 1990s was the ideal turning point for the Indian automobile market when you could walk into the Bajaj showroom and drive home on the Bajaj Chetak. The ten-year waiting period evaporated to nothing, as Bajaj Chetak scooters were available right off the shelf.
There were instances of dealers delivering 100s of Bajaj Chetaks in a single day. A Ludhiana-based dealer once delivered a whopping 500 Bajaj Chetak in a single day.
However, globalization has its negative aspects, as well. The Indian automobile market was flooded with Japanese motorcycles like the Suzuki and Kawasaki. Hero Honda also was gaining ground during the time.
The youngster of the 1990s preferred the bike more to the scooter, thereby forcing Bajaj to come up with its version of the bike, the Kawasaki Bajaj 2-stroke, and 4-stroke motorcycles. The introduction of these bikes presided over the decline of the indefatigable Bajaj Chetak by the turn of the century.
After the natural demise of the Bajaj Chetak, Bajaj did not manufacture another scooter until 2019. This age belongs to electric vehicles, and you cannot expect Bajaj to leave such an opportunity. Bajaj had plans to introduce an electric scooter that could rival the best in the industry.
When it came to choosing names, it did not have to go very far. The resurrection of the Bajaj Chetak was always on the cards. Thus, you have Bajaj Chetak reincarnating in a new avatar, the electric scooter.
Bajaj Chetak Electric is due for a grand launch in 2020. The bookings might begin soon either in November or December. Now, Bajaj promises that you do not have to wait for ten years to get the delivery of the Bajaj Chetak Electric. The Bajaj Chetak electric price could be around Rs 1 lakh mark.
Ths scooter will bring back the memories and maybe usher in an era of scooters holding sway over the motorcycles as it was in the 1970s and 80s. Happy days are here again for the Bajaj Chetak lovers, as they can lay their hands on the beauty once again very soon. Now, Bajaj can very well say in Bollywood style, "Picture Abhi Baki Hai, Mere Dost."