Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tata Nano – World’s Cheapest Car

During the Golden Week holidays this month I went to Mumbai, India on a business trip.  It was very hot in India as it was the peak of Indian summer.  However, I am happy that I survived the Indian summer for one week.
During this trip to India, I had a chance to  touch and feel the world’s lowest priced passenger car – The Nano made by Tata Car company of India.   In fact this car was launched just 2 years ago targeting the Indian small car market.  The Nano is a tiny car with the even tinier price-tag.  It retails in India for Rs. 100,000 (US$2,200) and is an economic choice to fit a family of four comfortably.
Tata Nano
The Nano was the result of the vision of Mr. Ratan Tata, the Chairman of the Tata Motors.  When Mr.Tata envisioned this eco-friendly, people’s car with a price tag of just around US$2,200, most automakers around the world scoffed at him.  Japanese car makers like  Suzuki who had a big presence in Indian car market mocked at Tata saying that it was impossible to make a reliable car for Rs 100,000.  However, when the Nano was finally launched, car makers in Detroit and Japan took a serious note of it.   Even car makers like Ford admitted that the Nano is a groundbreaking product, and it will cause people to think differently about making small cars.
There are a number of features that make the Nano unique and affordable.  The car is 10 feet long, 5 feet wide – about 8% smaller bumper to bumper, than the Maruti 800 (Indian version of Suzuki Alto),  but nevertheless it has 20 % larger interior space and can sit four people comfortably.  The Nano gets 20 km/ liter in city and 26 km/ liter on highways, making it the most fuel efficient car in India.  It has a four-speed manual gearshift, and 30-liter fuel tank. The car is equipped with air conditioner, but does not have power steering.
Though the Tata Nano has a price tag of just around $2,200, it has a steel frame, sheet metal body and safety glass like most other expensive cars.  It has a rear mounted 624 CC engine and the emissions exceed regulatory requirements.
I was happy to see the cheapest car in the world. I liked the design of the car. For sure, it looks quite Jazzy.  However, I am not sure about the safety of the vehicle.  I felt the steel sheet was little thinner than that of most other small cars.  Before Tata starts exporting Nano to other countries, they would have to meet the European and American safety standards.
International car makers are now getting ready to compete with Tata Nano in the ultra cheap small car market.  Nissan and Renault has teamed up with Indian auto maker Bajaj with a plan to make a  common people’s car that will cost $2500 in India.  Nissan and Bajaj aim to provide a fuel economy of 30 km/liter compared to 23 km/liter provided by Tatas Nano. This would surely create a fierce competition in the small car segment.