#CNBCTV18Exclusive | Have been criticised for managing large amounts (Rs 15,000-20,000 cr) on #books. In long-term, it makes more sense to #return value to #shareholders via #buyback, says Rajiv Bajaj of Bajaj Auto on reports of share buyback by co. pic.twitter.com/qHDIjHLWjI— CNBC-TV18 (@CNBCTV18Live) June 10, 2022
Bajaj Auto CEO Rajiv Bajaj believes a lot of electric vehicle makers "should not be manufacturing EVs" but not enough has been done to stop them from being in the business.
"There is still a lot of makers out there that I believe should not be making electric vehicles. I don't think enough is being done to put a lid on this as quickly as it should be because I can't put it more simply than this that they are playing with people's lives and that's just not right," said Bajaj in an interview with CNBC-TV18.
Bajaj's comments come as concerns have risen lately over the safety of electric vehicles after the recent fire incidents and as reports suggest defective cells and batteries may have caused them.
"I have heard of companies that submit one battery for testing, and actually use a different specification in actual production. If somebody is just flouting the norms like that, then there must be very, very serious consequences for that," said Bajaj.
Last month, CNBC-TV18 had reported that several EV companies were likely using lower quality cells despite submitting A-grade cells for testing, taking advantage of the loosely-framed rules in the absence of surprise checks.
An Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) source told CNBC-TV18 that while almost all companies submit grade-A cells for testing, many may not be necessarily using the same in all the vehicles produced and sold. The report also highlighted issues with the battery management system used by many EV makers.
"There are loopholes that we have ourselves created and people have then exploited. These have to be fixed... Whether it is in terms of batteries, or cells, or whether it is in terms of complying with certain safety, emission norms...," said Bajaj.
He, however, added that the answer to the issues doesn't lie in a lot of inspection and audit but in the right policies. "We don't want to go back to the 'inspector raj'. We want to be in the 'intellectual raj'."
According to Bajaj, agencies like ARAI are on a learning curve and testing needs to be more robust.
"You are going to face issues, not just with the usage of products, depending on the application, but also post use for example. Then in terms of products themselves, how robust they are, how they are tested. Even agencies like ARAI, etc. are also climbing the learning curve themselves," he said, adding that the facilities not backed by R&D, manufacturing and testing should not be approved.
He also added that the "optics surrounding EVs are very compelling despite incidents" as a bit of demand decline due to battery fires won't be visible because of the large size of the market.
Bajaj said that his company continued to receive bookings for EVs despite the recent fires.
"The peak summer is what was really of concern and that has led to some of the incidents that have occurred. But whether we are out of the woods or not, time alone will tell," he said.
Nearly hundred vehicles including cars and two-wheelers went up in flames on June 8 as a massive fire broke out at electric motor parking lot in Delhi's Jamia Nagar. While the reason behind the fire is still unknown, an investigation is underway.
This came after multiple incidents of fires on EVs in the last 2-3 months.
At least eight incidents of fire on EVs were reported in a month alone between March and April in different parts of the country, including forty electric scooters of Jitendra Electric Vehicles together catching fire in a transport container in Nashik.
Taking cognisance of recent electric vehicle fires and the poor quality cells that may have caused these incidents, the consumer affairs ministry is likely to set standards for electric vehicle batteries soon, CNBC-TV18 had reported on May 31.
"The standards are likely to include specifications on size, connectors, specification and minimum quality of cells, the battery's capacity," said sources.
Bajaj Auto in December last year announced an investment of Rs 300 crore to build capacity for 5 lakh EV units per annum at its brand-new unit at Akurdi, Pune.
"What is right for us is to move forward in these steps that I spoke of, which is to move now from 2,500 to 5000 vehicles and then gradually find our way over the next couple of years to realise this capacity of half a million vehicles a year," added Bajaj.
He wants buyers to think of 'Chetak' as a product that can be compared with a Rolls Royce.