Once a scooter with a waiting list measured in years, the Vespa derived Bajaj Chetak was a mainstay of the Indian nation for decades. And then one day, in 2006, Bajaj made the decision to cease scooter production, citing that in their opinion the Indian market was heading towards a two-wheeled sector that would be dominated by motorcycles.
A Brief History
Bajaj began scooter production in the 1950s after obtaining a licence from Piaggio to produce machines in India. Throughout the 1960s Bajaj produced their version of the Vespa VBB 150. After the deal between the two companies was ended in 1971, Bajaj kept the tooling and continued to produce Vespa derived scooters. This included the Chetak, once India’s most popular form of two-wheeled transport. So much so in fact that not only was there a waiting list for the robust Chetak scooter, but versions of it were produced under licence elsewhere in India.
The Chetak evolved in both style and engineering with a geared 4-stroke version produced back in 1999 named the Legend. Yes, a geared 4-stroke, 4-speed engine with TRICS (Throttle Response Ignition Control System – an early version of their variable ignition system) in a largely metal-bodied scooter on 10″ wheels that was obviously derived from a Vespa. Hmmm….
Bajaj produced a version of the Vespa Ape 3-wheeler under licence until 1971, and again kept the tooling. In fact even after ceasing scooter production, they are still making 3-wheelers. They also had a collaboration with Japan’s Kawasaki to produce bikes locally, and have subsequently purchased a large share of Austrian motorcycle firm KTM.
However, despite their prophecy, the scooter market hasn’t disappeared completely in India. Piaggio re-entered the market with their new range of automatic Vespa scooters as well as launching the premium Aprilia SR150, and other companies such as TVS, Suzuki, and Hero have continued to produce automatic scooters there, as have Honda whose Activa scooter is currently a best seller.
Now sources in India suggest that Bajaj Auto is again thinking of re-introducing the Chetak scooter. A leaked image of what is claimed to be the new Bajaj Chetak 2017 is doing rounds on the internet, allegedly found following the company’s re-registeration of the Chetak brand and new patents.
However, according to Indian sources – and what can be deduced from the photo – the 2017 Chetak is highly unlikely to look much like an old Vespa, and neither will it have a manual gearbox. A 125 and 150cc 4-stroke CVT automatic air-cooled engine is likely, while the styling is obviously inspired by the automatic Vespa ET4 and LX range. Whether it will be metal or plastic is unknown. It will be lightweight however, and priced to be very competitive again the Italian original, as indeed the Bajaj scooters were in the 1980s when Piaggio re-entered in the Indian market then with LML.
On the positive side, Bajaj it seems are willing to make a U-turn with regards to big decisions, then maybe if the market demands they may one day re-start geared scooter production too.
If you want more information, the most thorough source we found was at www.gaadiwaadi.com