The Quadricycle Dilemma

The Quadricycle Dilemma


This month, I had an opportunity to drive a rather interesting vehicle – the Eicher Polaris Multix, a tiny utility vehicle that has a fully enclosed cabin that can seat up to five persons, and an open pick-up truck-like space for loading up on cargo. Powered by a 650 cc single-cylinder diesel engine that produces a scant 13 hp, and with very basic fit-and-finish levels, the Multix is most definitely not a car. Based on a Polaris quadricycle platform, the Multix is essentially a goods carrier aimed at small businesses operating in small towns and semi-rural areas. With independent suspension all around and generous load space, it probably makes sense as a small commercial vehicle. However, the surprising bit is that the Multix can also be registered for personal use. Eicher Polaris is pitching this as a 'family' vehicle, which one can use for 'road trips, outings and family vacations.'

Now, it is one thing for quadricycles (or quadricycle-based UV-like four-wheelers) to be registered as commercial vehicles that can only be used for last-mile connectivity, and only in designated areas within city premises. But if such a vehicle is being registered as a personal vehicle, wouldn't that allow the user to take the vehicle wherever he pleases, including, highways and expressways? And in that case, what happens to safety concerns? After all, at least one major two-wheeler manufacturer has been denied permission to produce and sell a quadricycle-based four-wheeler in the Indian market, so for the powers that be, what is the rationale behind allowing the Multix to be sold and registered as a personal vehicle in India?

Is a four-wheeler based on a quadricycle platform, safer than three-wheeler autorickshaws that ply our streets across the country? Probably, yes. Then again, three-wheelers can't be registered as personal vehicles, which restrict their usage to designated areas only, in the city. However, as a personal vehicle, there's no stopping quadricycle-based four-wheelers from hitting the highway (if not inter-city highways, then at least places like the six-lane expressway connecting Noida and Greater Noida in Delhi NCR, and other such highways connecting city centres to their suburbs) and that seems like a recipe for disaster.

No, I'm not suggesting that a quadricycle-based four-wheeler should have airbags or the structural strength/rigidity of a car. I'm sure that's not possible. But in that case, maybe the Indian government should restrict all such vehicles to commercial use only and that too within designated areas in cities, and not on highways or expressways. Here's hoping that good sense will prevail in all quarters and going forward, the authorities in charge will take a well thought out stand on this issue, which they will then implement uniformly for all OEMs.

Sameer Kumar
Executive Editor