Tata Nano, The Costly Cheapest Car Ever

by IndianAuto Team | 26/09/2019
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There are things that would be different from what you see or hear. And Tata Nano is among them. Despite being the cheapest car, it cost a fortune to build it over and over again to meet social standards.

Not only famous in India, but Tata Motors has also achieved excellent reputation worldwide. Years ago, Tata Motors was ranked 17th in BusinessWeek magazine’s “50 Most Innovative Companies”, and in 2018, it was ranked 232th according to Fortune. Tata Motors has produced many types of vehicles including cars of all segments, passenger buses, military vehicles and the famous Land Rover.  To achieve the present position, the company has been through the ups and downs as many others. In the past, the Indian manufacturer decided to build an innovative vehicle that could change the way people used cars. And they did it; in 2008, Tata Motors launched “the cheapest car”, the Tata Nano, which cost approximately INR 1 lakh or $ 2,500. However, the cost for R&D and attempts to design and build the car was pretty high compared to the low price when sold. In other words, the journey to make the cheapest car required a huge fortune.

The Making Of Tata Nano - NatGeo

The starting point

In 2005, a small truck named Tata Ace was successfully released in India as the first mini automobile of its manufacturer. Its mission was to compete with the popular motorized rickshaws and other three-wheeled cargo vehicles. The Tata Ace performed outstandingly, which made Tata Motors create another mini revolutionary passenger vehicle. At that time, India was immersed with motorcycles and motor scooters. This would make it an ambitious plan to design an awesome vehicle that could make drivers jump to four-wheeled automobiles from the two-wheeled motorbikes. And that was how the idea of Tata Nano came to life. 

tata nano yellow side profile

Tata Nano must be one of the world cutest cars.

Let’s do cost-cutting!

As the price of cars sold was pretty high compared to motorbikes, cost-cutting was a must. Tata tried to take out as many unneeded features as possible. Nevertheless, it seemed that Tata’s definition of “unneeded” must have derived from a weird source as they excluded the entertainment systems, airbags, each wheel’s fourth nut, power steering, etc. They must have forgotten that motorbikes did not have those features as well. Therefore, without the “unneeded” items, the Tata Nano was indifferent from a normal bike except the higher price and bigger body. So why would customers purchase it rather than a scooter?

tata nano interior

The Tata Nano misses out on a number of 'unneeded' features.

On the other hand, there was some good stuff in the Tata Nano. Despite many missing items, it had an amazingly massive passenger compartment, an extremely efficient 624 cc two-cylinder petrol engine, and lower emission levels than most of the motorcycles of that time. Besides, the small size made it pretty cute.

Also readTata Nano 2018 Review India: Images, Performance, Specs and Price

Every journey is hard

Despite all the efforts, Tata Nano couldn't draw customer attention. Although Tata Motors had tried their best to reduce the cost, bikes were still much cheaper than the Tata Nano. And people who really want to own a car, even a cheap car, a second-hand one with more features made more sense. Fortunately, there were a few people who took a great interest in the Nano. However, the enthusiasm lasted shortly because many unexpected events happened. One of the Nanos caught fire, which occurred shortly after its release in 2009. To explain the fires and smokes, Tata Motors blamed on a sort of vague cause which was “foreign electrical equipment”; and they increase the warranty to 4 years, However, customers still hesitated to purchase a Tata Nano. Therefore, the company had to find a way to overcome these messes.

A burning Tata Nano at Nagpur

The only solution is getting better

Since the unlucky launch of Tata Nano in 2009, Tata began to improve the model with three variants: Nano Twist, GenX Nano, and Nano eMAX. And, surprisingly, all the three variants were better equipped than the original version. That is to say, they were enhanced with essential features such as a stereo sound system, an opening rear hatch, electric-assisted steering, etc. However, airbags were still missing. But more or less, this explained why in 2011 the after-sales reached over 74,000, but in 2015, it decreased to just over 16,000.

2011 Tata Nano : Regular Cars Review

An Unfulfilled dream

Tata’s ambition is not only in India but all over the world. They made plans to bring the Tata Nano to the United States by 2012; however, the company had to face a lot of difficulty in additional cost caused by accessories, product recalls and price tags. And that was not the only obstacle preventing them from reaching aboard. Although the Tata Nano successfully passed a crash test in England with positive results, it could not make it through the 40 miles/h frontal test in Germany. According to The Guardian, the results of the test in Germany showed potential chances of leading passengers and drivers to sustain fatal injuries. Moreover, the mini car also did not pass child safety test because it is impossible to install a child seat in it. Hence, the company's plan to sell Nano abroad couldn't be fulfilled.

Crash Test Tata Nano - 0 STARS

Enter the Pixel

In 2011, at the 81st Geneva Motor Show, the company surprisingly introduced the Tata Pixel, whose size was bigger than the Tata Nano and it came with better safety features and specs. Even though the Tata Pixel was just a city car concept for the European market back then, it could give outstanding performance thanks to a low friction 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine. The Tata Pixel is also claimed to have fuel mileage of 3.4 litre per 100km and CO2 emissions of just 89 g/km.

Tata Pixel Concept

All in all, being the cheapest car, the Tata Nano lacked many sorts of features in exchange for the ridiculously low price. However, the cost for R&D and marketing in years has made the car become more expensive than it is supposed to be. Also, according to many people, the company should have tried to reduce the cost of the features instead of removing them. Overall, besides having a long interesting tale, Tata Nano was a pretty good attempt by the company. Unluckily, however, it couldn't find many buyers. Stay tuned to IndianAuto for more such interesting stories. 

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