Tata's low-cost car unveiled

  • 31-Mar-2008 07:29 EDT

The Nano is the brainchild of Ratan Tata, patriarch of the Tata Group.

A child standing precariously at the front, a baby resting in the arms of the mother seated behind the scooter-driving father—one family getting from point A to point B in India.

This is no one’s idea of safe and fun travel, not even in developing nations, but it is a common sight in India, according to Ratan Tata, the patriarch of the Tata Group who upon thinking about this style of mobility decided to use his company’s vast resources to offer families a saner option.

Four years later, he appeared on a global stage (at the Auto Expo in New Dehli, January 10) to unveil that option. Called the Nano, it is a one-lakh ($2500) “people’s car” that “can comfortably seat four persons” in its four-wheel, four-door, rear-engine, rear-drive package. The two-cylinder gasoline engine displaces 0.62 L, generates 33 hp (24 kW), offers good fuel efficiency (and hence low CO2 emissions), and produces emissions lower than those of two-wheelers being made in India today, according to Tata Motors, a unit of the Tata Group conglomerate. The company did not release figures for emissions, saying only that the car meets regulatory requirements. Fuel efficiency will exceed 20 km/L (47 mpg).

At 3.1 m (10.2 ft) long, 1.5 m (5.0 ft) wide, and 1.6 m (5.2 ft) high, the Nano is suitable for urban and rural driving, according to Tata Motors.

The Nano was developed by Tata Motors exclusively, according to company spokesperson Debasis Ray. Chairman Ratan Tata said he originally had hoped to co-develop the car with other companies, but there were no takers.

The Nano is expected to go on sale “later this year,” with only the Indian market in mind “for the time being,” Ray said. Two versions (standard and deluxe) will be available.

Tata is not focused exclusively on low-end cars; it is in talks with Ford regarding the possible purchase of the U.S. company’s Jaguar and Land Rover units.

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