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India: Introducing the Tata Nano

The unveiling of Tata Nano, a new supermini car at the New Delhi Auto Expo today has created quite a commotion on the blogosphere. The standard version of the car is 100,000 Rs (approximately 2500 USD) making it the cheapest car to hit the Indian market.

Tata Nano

The reception to the car has been quite mixed. Some claim that such a cheap car is only going to add to the infrastructure woes in Indian cities, already weighed by congested roads. Plus, the potential of pollution increasing as more cars hit the road. However, a lot of people are extremely positive about the car.

Indian Muslims writes that the car could have an interesting impact on rural India.

I agree with the critics that at least it is going to be a traffic disaster. Our cities are already seething with jams and crowded places. But then Ratan Tata is a businessman. And his focus is on bringing products which people need at the cheapest possible price. The infrastructure problems have to be solved by our policy makers and politicians. And it may be too much to ask from them. We have seen Bangalore and Pune become pathetic without much being done to keep pace with the exploding population of these cities. I am sure if this car is a success it will be a traffic disaster. But then if we think outside our cities, in the rural areas, where 70% of India lives it could be a life changing thing.

IndieQuill sums up the range of reactions, and points out that there is no reason for cars to be a luxury good.

On the one hand, where the hell do any of us get off making the case that cars should remain a luxury? Ratan Tata might be indulging in a PR exercise but he’s got a point when he says there are tons of families out there who’re making do with extremely unsafe modes of transportation because they can’t afford safer alternatives. Anybody who’s seen a woman balance a tiny baby on her lap while clinging to her husband as they sit on his bike and make their way through bumper-to-bumper traffic has a lot of nerve arguing that that couple ought to stick with their bike so that the rest of us, with more money in our bank accounts, can swan around in our a/c cars.

Don't Trust The Indian Media! has pictures of the car from the Auto Expo and writes that activists are likely to lose goodwill if they target people for being aspirational.

About Sunita Narain and R K Pachauri's comments on congestion and pollution, while valid stink of elitism I am afraid. People will protest against this car, but they should instead go after factories, after diesel generator sets and so much more. The problem with Indian greenies is that by protesting against the wrong things, they tend to lose goodwill. Remind me to cancel my subscription to Greenpeace. Don't go after people's aspirations guys, you lose goodwill. Tell people to consume more smartly, and tell our government to spend more wisely and not allow unfettered development, but mobility and communications are the wrong things to go after.

Ultrabrown expresses some safety concerns, but appears pretty positive about a car that promises – at the very least – protection from the elements.

Tata Motors just launched the modern-day equivalent of that Corolla, a car which costs less not only after adjusting for inflation, but in simple dollars as well. The Tata Nano isn’t a beauty queen, nor does it come with a click wheel. Its bumper curlicues evoke a late-model Ford Taurus, its absurdly high brow a boxfish. But at just Rs. 1 lakh ($2,500), it could put safer transport into the hands of middle- and lower-class families across the world.

Marketing Practice looks back at the time when the car was initially announced and scoffed at, and how the car probably doesn't need any marketing to boost sales.

In the marketing front, Nano had the dream start . Infact Nano may need no ads but heavy dose of positive PR during the launch. The brand may have to counter the skepticism surrounding the performance . Another nightmare is managing the initial rush of the customers. Since this is a car for the common man, there is every possibility that the customers could be given a raw treatment at the dealership touch- points. Indian marketers are still to wake up to the possibilities of a good customer service. How Tata and its dealers handle the initial euphoria will be something to watch for in the Customer-relationship perspective .

21 comments

  • Jannie Ruppersberg

    As far as I know, the new Tata Nano will not be available in South Africa for at least the next 2 years. The pricing will also be different due to import duties, VAT & shipping costs.

    As a Tata dealership in South Africa we have been inundated with calls for the Nano. For now we have no pricing or final specs available to the South African clients and can also not give an exact date for launch in South Africa.

    Our cheapest car is still the TATA Indica 1.4i LE @ R68 995. This car is a 5 door hatch with power steering standard. It also comes standard with a 2 year 45000 km service plan, 3 year factory warranty and roadside assistance… Still the best deal in South Africa.

    For more information contact us at our Tata dealership in Mowbray, Cape town # 021 686 5558.

    Jannie Ruppersberg
    Sales Executive
    Tata motors
    Mowbray
    Cape town

  • Kiwi Indian

    I read a great article by Gwynne Dyer, a London based journalist, on the anti-pollution arguments being put forward against the Nano

    http://www.gwynnedyer.com/articles/Gwynne%20Dyer%20article_%20%20Tehran%20Times.txt

    The last paragraph says it all:

    “Clucking disapprovingly about mass car ownership in India or China misses the point entirely. At the moment there are only eleven private cars for every thousand Indians. There are 477 cars for every thousand Americans. By mid-century, there will have to be the same number of cars per thousand people for both Indians and Americans — and that number will have to be a lot lower than 477, unless somebody comes up with cars that emit no greenhouse gases at all. Otherwise, everybody loses.”

  • The funniest part was seeing and hearing the news complain about the traffic jams in Delhi – people eager to see the Auto Expo. If they think it’s unmanageaable now, what the hell do they think it’s going to be like with lots of cheap plentiful cars on the road?

    Go ahead, reorient your entire economy and infrastructure to be completely dependent on the oil companies and auto industry. It worked out SO WELL for America.

  • ravi agarwal delhi

    well, i want to say only one thing to tata that cricicism is every where,five fingures are always not same.
    you have done a good job and i proud on you, for doing such a good job!!!!
    keep it up “tata”.

  • This is what I don’t understand – continually holding India to American standards, in all the most noxious categories. India is not America (as most Indians will be quick to point out when it is convenient for them).
    Statements like this –
    “”The last paragraph says it all:
    “Clucking disapprovingly about mass car ownership in India or China misses the point entirely. At the moment there are only eleven private cars for every thousand Indians. There are 477 cars for every thousand Americans. By mid-century, there will have to be the same number of cars per thousand people for both Indians and Americans “”

    just beg the question – Why will their HAVE to be the same number of cars per 1000? There are already too many cars in America!

  • Sirensongs: The way I see it – it’s about how the market operates. If India develops more efficient public transport systems, the market demand for a small car is likely to go down. Either way, people cannot be deprived of a choice. Perhaps it has something to do with our extremely strange “the state is your consumption monitor” experience till the very early 90s.

    People are intelligent enough to make choices for themselves. If the streets do get crowded, and people end up spending beyond their budget on petrol, they ditch their cars and use them more sparingly. IMHO, the price of petrol rather than the price of the car is a more crucial factor when smaller (and cheaper) cars are bought – atleast in India.

    This isn’t about the US. US and India are two very different countries and it’s a bit pointless to compare the two. But there are lessons to be learned from other countries. Take for instance the congestion charge levied in London in specific areas. It’s enough of an incentive for a lot of car owners not to drive around in Central London. At the same time – given that right beyond Central London – the bus service or the tube service isn’t entirely convenient – they use their cars locally – for short distances that are not convenient for walking.

    The other thing is that small cars like these make more sense instead of autorickshaws. They are cheaper than taxis, consume less petrol and don’t slow down the speed on roads. The trouble with three-wheelers is that they ruin lane-traffic management. They can rarely go over 30km/ph and by slowing down traffic, cause more petrol to be consumed and more pollution as vehicles drive on lower gears. Besides, this isn’t just about Delhi. The problem with state policy, especially at the Central Level is that it has always focused on metropolitan areas, instead of looking at periurban areas. Smaller cars add to mobility in areas beyond cities. They also have another benefit – as commuter belts get bigger. It’s not necessary that everyone drives down all the way to South Bombay – people may choose to drive 10 kms to their nearest station in Panvel or Vasai, and then take the train – as is the norm in many commuter belts. It improves their access to livelihood, and makes life easier for them. Why would anyone have a problem with that?

    Go to a rural area in Rajasthan – let’s stay rural Udaipur. There are roads, but buses ply every 8 hours sometimes. What do you do when someone needs to get to a particular place – in case of emergencies? Someone offering a slightly more expensive ride in a small car taxi makes a lot of sense. You’re right – this isn’t the US at all. Which is why you can’t use the same standards of US becoming oil-dependent or an SUV driving nation.

  • Charmi Soni

    The best thing about Tata Nano is the affordability ,compact structure and the ability to be completely functional on the raods . The best viable outcome would be nice for the auto rickshaws in suburban Mumbai to be replaced Tata Nano .

  • My hat is off to Tata motors. The Nano is a great car and, in my opinion, is a symbol that stands in the face of the “status quo”. I started a website that is a Tata forum, a soon-to-be resource for Tata owners, Nano included.

    http://www.trickmytata.com

  • […] People’s Car.” Other articles on the Nano can be found at Wheels, Treehugger, Edmunds, Global Voices, Winding Road, Leftlanenews, CNBC, Auto Motto, Christian Science Monitor and BusinessWeek. […]

  • chinthaka

    When will we be able to buy Tata Nano in Sri Lanka?

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