How cheap is the worlds cheapest car?
Tata Nano: World’s cheapest car is India’s answer for cash-strapped drivers
When the Indian industrialist Ratan Tata announced plans to produce the world’s cheapest car last January, he said he hoped to fulfil a dream of bringing motoring to the Indian masses.
But by the time the £1,350 Nano was launched yesterday in Mumbai, his dream had become more ambitious: to go head-to- head with the world’s biggest carmakers and bring low-cost motoring to the cash-strapped masses of Europe and US.
Yesterday, the group announced ambitions to challenge the gas-guzzling car culture of the west with plans to sell the Nano, which is priced in India at 100,000 rupees plus tax, to the US as well as Europe.
Tata, chairman of the group which owns Land Rover and Jaguar, said although the car had been designed for India, there had been «considerable interest» in the west.
The European Nano will be rolled out within two years and the US Nano within three. «Given the present indications of the buying preferences in the US, we felt that we could further develop the European Nano to meet the requirements of the US,» he said.
Speaking to the Guardian, Tata said he had the Indian family in mind when he designed this car. «Here in India we see four people travelling by motorbike . I thought they could travel more safely by car,» he said. «However, in the United States it could be for younger [people] who want a low-cost car.»
In a country where there are only 5m cars on the road, only seven out of every 1,000 people own a car. But Tata executives believe that with India’s roads improving and the country’s rising middle class, the Nano could sell a million cars a year. Like a 21st-century version of Henry Ford, Tata’s idea is of an affordable car that is light and simple, yet made from high-quality materials. The result is a jelly bean-shaped vehicle three metres long into which five adults can squeeze.
The price has been kept low partly thanks to India’s pool of talented engineers. The workers at the plant that makes the Nano could perhaps afford to buy the car — the average salary is just 150,000 rupees a year. What also keeps the cost low is the fact that the basic model in India makes few concessions to luxury: no airbag, radio, fog lamps or central locking. The only seat that can be moved is the driver’s. The Nano’s basic model comes with no heater or air conditioning.
Such is the interest — the word Nano was the most popular search on Google in India yesterday — that the company will hold a lottery to pick the first 100,000 customers to get cars this year.
But the western models are likely to be less spartan, larger and more expensive. The European and American models will almost certainly have bigger engines. The Indian model has a top speed of 65mph, too slow for western highways.
Cars sold in the EU and US also have to meet higher safety standards than in India — and the Nano Europa will have airbags and antilock brakes. The extra features will make the car more expensive, with reports that the Europa would cost £4,000.
Tata claims that the car will manage 70 mpg and emit only 101 g of CO2 per kilometre driven. There are only two dozen cars on British roads which claim to emit less greenhouse gases than the Nano. But environmentalists worry the new car — by sheer numbers — could herald a «nightmare» of pollution and clogged roads.
«It’s the most politically correct car on the roads,» said Hormazd Sorabjee, editor of Autocar India. «The real genius is building it to Indian requirements, which means you have to shave costs but still deliver value for money. It’s a perfect car for our age.»
Jag v Tata
Top speed 250km/h
Fuel consumption 12.3 km/litre (23 mpg)
Carbon dioxide emissions 292 g/km
Turning circle 10.9 metres
Available in 17 external colours, 18 interior combinations
Optional features Adaptive cruise control, premium sound system, heated steering wheel
On the road price From £72,400
Top speed 105km/h
Fuel consumption 23.6 km/litre
Carbon dioxide emissions 101 g/km
Turning circle 4 metres
Available in Three colour options
Optional features Airbag, radio, air conditioning
On the road price From £1,366
Tata Nano: The World’s Cheapest Car
Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Motors, displaying the Nano in New Delhi on Thursday. (Photo by Money Sharma/European Pressphoto Association)
Tata Motors today took the covers off the world’s cheapest car — the Nano.
Over the past year, Tata has been building hype for a car that would cost a mere 100,000 rupees (roughly $2,500) and bring automotive transportation to the mainstream Indian population. It has been nicknamed the “People’s Car.” Over the course of the New Delhi Auto Expo, which began this week, anticipation had grown to fever pitch.
With the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey” playing, Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Motors drove the small white bubble car onto Tata’s show stage, where it joined two others.
The Tata Nano could sell for around $2,500. (Photo by Raveendran/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)
“They are not concept cars, they are not prototypes,” Mr. Tata announced when he got out of the car. “They are the production cars that will roll out of the Singur plant later this year.”
The four-door Nano is a little over 10 feet long and nearly 5 feet wide. It is powered by a 623cc two-cylinder engine at the back of the car. With 33 horsepower, the Nano is capable of 65 miles an hour. Its four small wheels are at the absolute corners of the car to improve handling. There is a small trunk, big enough for a duffel bag.
“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,” Mr. Tata added. “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.”
The base price for the Nano will be 120,000 rupees, including road tax and delivery. Higher level models will cost more and come with air-conditioning. Sun visors and radios are extra.
The nearest priced competitor is the Maruti 800, which costs roughly twice as much as the Nano. In comparing the Nano to the Maruti 800, Mr. Tata said, “It is 8 percent smaller — bumper to bumper — and has 21 percent larger seating capacity than Maruti 800.”
The Hindustan Times reports reactions from a couple of Tata’s competitors, Maruti and Hyundai:
Jagdish Khattar, a former head of Maruti 800 manufacturer Maruti Udyog Ltd., says it’s too early to say whether the Nano will overtake the original.
“It’s a good product but it’s still too early to say whether it will overtake the 800 because it caters to a totally new market segment,” he said while watching a live telecast of Tata’s press conference after unveiling of the Nano.
But clearly, at least one other manufacturer was worried.
An official of Hyundai Motors, which unveiled an LPG version of its Santro Thursday, was more circumspect.
“We definitely see it as impacting our sales,” he said in halting English, preferring to maintain anonymity.
Anand Mahindra, managing director for Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors’ primary competitor, said before the unveiling, “I think it’s a moment of history and I’m delighted an Indian company is leading the way.”
The Nano will go on sale in India later this year with an initial production run of 250,000 a year. Tata says it will offer the Nano in other emerging markets in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa within four years.