Monday, March 3, 2008

TATA nano

The people’s car is super-cheap, super-tiny, and super-efficient.

Nestled among the fast and luxurious debuts at the 2008 Geneva auto show is the $2500 Nano show car from India’s Tata Motors.

This so-called people’s car caused quite a stir when it was unveiled in India in January as a car for its domestic market. Although it seats four, the Nano is a paltry 122 inches long—three feet shorter than a Honda Fit and six inches narrower. To maximize space, the wheels are located at the far corners of the car, and the engine is mounted under the rear seat.

Despite its small size, Tata says the car is safe—based on Indian crash-testing results—with crumple zones, anti-intrusion door beams, and seatbelts. But there are no airbags in the first-generation Nano, and some reports say there are only front seatbelts.

Initially, the Nano will be offered to Indian buyers in three trims. The base trim is basic transportation—lacking such luxuries as air conditioning, fog lights, power windows, power steering, and power locks.

The Nano’s powertrain is geared more toward fuel saving than drag racing. The two-cylinder, 600cc engine produces just 33 horsepower but should be frugal enough to manage 50 mpg. Power is routed through a continuously variable automatic to the rear wheels.

Keeping the cost down for buyers in emerging markets was a challenge partly solved with several unique touches. The Nano’s instrument cluster is centrally mounted, for example, so the car can easily be adapted for right- or left-hand-drive countries. The door handles are identical on both sides to further trim costs.

As India industrializes, the Nano is designed to provide affordable transportation for families. Chairman Ratan Tata wanted to produce a vehicle that was safer and more convenient than rickshaws or scooters. Aside from the tiny Nano, Tata sells a variety of vehicles in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and several other countries.

Initially, the small car is for sale in India only, with exports to begin within four years. Tata officials have said they plan to offer a second-generation Nano in Europe in 2012 that meets European safety and emissions standards. There are no plans to sell the entry-level car in North America.

No comments: