I would say that the new Tata Nano, the Rs. 1 lakh ($2,500) car revealed by Tata Motors at the New Delhi Auto Expo a few hours ago, exceeds the expectations of those who were predicting something that looked more motorcycle than automobile.
As we led up to today’s unveiling of the revolutionary small car—aimed to get families out from motorcyles and in to a safer automobile—I had heard all manner of predictions, many of them negative, about the vehicle.
Yet Tata has come up with a “people’s car” designed to mobilize the masses in India in the same vein as the Volkswagen, Fiat nuova 500 and the BMC Mini.
It possesses a certain chic with a contemporary one-box design that could have come from an Italian design house. While the Nano won’t make it to too many western export markets due to the perceived lack of safety features, it will start a new trend among cheap transportation, especially in an era of high oil prices. I don’t think it’ll take too long for the Red Chinese to copy it and I speculate that Tata may well plan on creating a slightly plusher, airbag-standard version for export.
However, as far as Tata is concerned, the Nano meets the requirements of its main market and is safe.
The car is available in standard and deluxe models. The most noticeable feature of the latter is its colour-keyed bumpers and wheel trims.
Said chairman Ratan N. Tata, ‘I observed families riding on two-wheelers—the father driving the scooter, his young kid standing in front of him, his wife seated behind him holding a little baby. It led me to wonder whether one could conceive of a safe, affordable, all-weather form of transport for such a family. Tata Motors’ engineers and designers gave their all for about four years to realize this goal. Today, we indeed have a People’s Car, which is affordable and yet built to meet safety requirements and emission norms, to be fuel-efﬁcient and low on emissions. We are happy to present the People’s Car to India and we hope it brings the joy, pride and utility of owning a car to many families who need personal mobility.’
What I would really love to see is a version not powered by fossil fuels—a wish I have had for the car since 2006.
From a branding perspective, the car represents just how well organized Tata is. The Nano was the chairman’s baby, pushed through by a charismatic leader and its importance stressed by top management. It could well build Indian industry even more than the multi-billion-dollar Tata corporation can imagine. This, and its acquisition of Land Rover and Jaguar, may make Tata the most talked-about Asian automaker in 2008.
Plus, I love the name. Just as Mini was about as small as people could get in everyday speech in the 1950s, Nano is such a common term in the 2000s that the model name makes perfect sense.