India’s car for the people

From the Tata Nano website.

From the Tata Nano website.

Tata Motors will launch the much awaited Nano, slated to be the world’s cheapest car priced at Rs 1 lakh (less than $2,000), at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai on Monday afternoon. Bookings will start in April.

The Tata Nano will initially be available in three models – the Nano (base model), the CX (mid-level model) and LX (top-end model). Click here for Nano specifications.

MSN News has a comprehensive story that tells you pretty much everything about the aspirational car, how to book one, what does it mean for the used-car market, and will people switch from two-wheelers.

Read also The National for more on “India’s equivalent to the Volkswagen Beetle and the original Mini,” the competition, and what it means for the already-choked roads of India’s cities:

Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata

Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata

“Currently, there are about seven cars for every 1,000 people in India, compared to 600 to 800 cars per 1,000 in developed countries. Tata is banking on the logic that if it offers a car that is marginally more expensive than a scooter, Indians will buy it.”

From the Wall Street Journal:

The Nano symbolizes the global auto industry’s rush to create affordable, lower-emission vehicles to tap developing nations from India to Brazil. Should the car succeed, it could represent the coming-of-age of modern India’s manufacturing prowess.

“But going by the auto industry’s experience with small cars, the upstart Nano won’t be much of a money-spinner. Manufacturers have traditionally made razor-thin margins on smaller cars, using them more to capture younger buyers in the hopes they will move up to more profitable models as they grow in age and wealth.

What Can Tata’s Nano Teach Detroit? BusinessWeek says U.S. carmakers would do well to learn from the innovations that brought it about:

“For Detroit’s Big Three, those first two lessons are easy compared with the third from the Tata Nano: Rethinking the supply chain. Looking upstream, Tata brought in suppliers such as Bosch, a German maker of appliances and motors, and Delphi, a world leader in automotive parts (and onetime subsidiary of GM), in early-stage design, challenging them to be full partners in the Nano innovation by developing lower-cost components.”

And in the Economic Times, Tata Motors CEO Ratan Tata on cars beyond Nano:

I think the next challenge would be to live up to the peoples aspirations. To make the experience of buying, owning, servicing and supporting the Nano different from what you might have experienced. At the same time, the challenge will also be to have people understand that the Nano is not a Honda, not a Toyota.

It is a low cost car and while there might not be any deficiencies, it might have some lack of refinement which will go with a low cost product, but surely won’t be a deficiency as such. I don’t think there’s been a car in India that’s planned to be produced in this kind of volume. It is therefore important for us to maintain a sustained quality from our suppliers and our own ability to meet product standards. All these issues should be very challenging.

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