Ola says no production of entry level S1 scooter till year end, wants waiting customers to upgrade, Auto News, ET Auto

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 In a communication on Friday to customers waiting for its scooters, Ola said it was prioritizing production of the top variant S1 pro, which costs Rs 1.3 lakh and would not be producing the S1 till late 2022.
In a communication on Friday to customers waiting for its scooters, Ola said it was prioritizing production of the top variant S1 pro, which costs Rs 1.3 lakh and would not be producing the S1 till late 2022.

It’s 2022 and long waiting periods for automobiles is more common today than at most other times. Even then a 15 month wait for a scooter would qualify as highly unusual. That is how it is turning out to be for customers waiting for Ola S1, the entry level version of the electric scooter that has a starting price of Rs 1 lakh.

In a communication on Friday to customers waiting for its scooters, Ola said it was prioritizing production of the top variant S1 pro, which costs Rs 1.3 lakh and would not be producing the S1 till late 2022. The final purchase window–the second in the unusual and rather convoluted process, is open only for those who paid Rs 20,000 in a two day purchase window in mid September. In this window, they are expected to make the payment for the residual amount but the only scooters on offer are S1 Pro. As such, Ola is offering the customers a chance to upgrade to the more expensive version or wait for another 10-12 months–some of whom may have made the initial Rs 499 payment in July 2021.

 Bhavish Aggarwal Co-Founder & CEO, Ola
Bhavish Aggarwal Co-Founder & CEO, Ola

“A vast majority of our customers have chosen the S1 Pro so we’re prioritizing its production and will now be making the S1 variant only in late 2022,” Ola said in the email to the customers. “There isn’t a better time to go Pro as we’re opening the final payment window on the Ola app on January 21 at 6pm. If you still wish to buy our S1 variant, we will notify you as soon as we put that into production and you can make the final payment then.”

Ola Electric co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal later tweeted that customers would have the option to upgrade to a scooter which would have the hardware of an S1 pro but lack the air software updates. As such, the scooter will operate like S1 but it would give the option for consumers to unlock features that would upgrade it to S1 pro at any point in time in future by paying the balance Rs 30,000.

While this would take care of consumers who had opted for the S1 in the purchase window of September 2021, those looking to buy the cheaper variant now in the fresh window that opens next week, would have to wait till the end of the year. The company did not specify the reason for the delay in production of the S1 but admitted that it has not produced it even for the purpose of test rides. As such, customers do not have the option to experience the variant before they make the final payment.

This is not the first time that Ola has missed its own deadlines either. As per its original plan, deliveries for its scooters as well as the test rides were supposed to start from October 25. That schedule was pushed back by a fortnight to November 10 when the company started offering test rides to its waitlisted customers in four cities. At the same time it also started accepting balance payment from them which is the last step before deliveries could be made to customers at their doorstep. Unsurprisingly, this extension of the waiting period has left customers livid.

 Bhavish Aggarwal's Tweet
Bhavish Aggarwal’s Tweet

“This is like forcing those who booked S1 to buy S1 pro (higher prices and some more features such as speed). Due to the hype people who booked are eagerly awaiting the delivery, many will fall in the trap,” says Gaurav Shrivastava, a customer from Indore. “If they chose to cancel, they have unknowingly funded a project with absolutely no returns.”

The delay offers more ammunition to critics who have for long doubted Ola’s ability to deliver on its big promises. Recently Ola’s claim that it has delivered 4,000 scooters to customers came under scrutiny after the Federation of Automotive Dealers Federation cited figures from the government’s Vahan portal to say Ola registered only 238 scooters during the month. The company is yet to provide details of how many bookings it received in July, the break up between S1 and S1 Pro variants or its production ramp up schedule.

 Bhavish Aggarwal's Tweet
Bhavish Aggarwal’s Tweet

“The company needs to be more transparent and has to be held accountable on the promises that they have made themselves. Customers are within their rights to ask why they are not producing the S1 when they claim to be building the world’s largest two wheeler factory of 10 million units,” says Vinkesh Gulati, President, FADA. “Even the semiconductor chip shortage cannot be a problem because then you shouldn’t be able to make the top end variant either.”

Launched with much fanfare on August 15 last year with the promise to revolutionize not just the domestic but the global two wheeler industry, the Ola story looks more like a twisty road than a freeway.

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Sharing a shot of its electric scooters at the company’s factory while extending greetings for Lohri, Sankrati and Pongal, Aggarwal in a tweet said, “Sea of scooters awaits! Final payment window opens Jan 21, 6 pm in Ola App for all customers who’ve paid (Rs) 20k. We’ll dispatch across Jan & Feb.”

Ride-hailing major and electric vehicle maker Ola said it was ramping up production operations and ensuring deliveries as scheduled, amid allegations from a dealers’ body of receiving consumer complaints regarding non-adherence to committed timelines.