Three Wheelin’

In its native India the world’s largest manufacturer of scooters, Bajaj Auto Ltd., markets a three-wheel rickshaw much the same way SUVs are sold here: their catalog touts it as “a perfect family vehicle.” This fall Al Kolvites, president of Bajaj USA, plans to import the company’s three-wheelers, which are based on Piaggio’s 50-year-old design for its Vespa scooter—but with a modern clean-burning four-stroke engine. (For the last year and a half he’s been selling the company’s two-wheeled scooters, which also strongly resemble a classic Vespa.)

In addition to the rickshaw, two other three-wheel models will be available: a tiny van and a pickup truck capable of carrying a 1,000-pound payload with its 8.2 horsepower motor. The main applications Kolvites envisions are industrial: carting in large warehouses and deliveries in urban areas. But it’s easy to envision the extremely stylish—and completely street legal—vehicles finding another market. “It turns out that there are a lot of people who think they’re cute and want one to drive down to the supermarket,” Kolvites says. “And a couple of surfers have been in contact with us who want to customize one with a surfboard rack.”

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