By on January 5, 2010

We also recognize there is a market (for the Nano) not only in developing countries, but possibly in the developed countries. For the United States we need a car which has a larger engine and we need additional crash test modifications and we are in the process of doing it.

Ratan Tata at today’s India Auto Expo [via Automotive News [sub]], suggesting that the world’s cheapest car could eventually be sold in the US. Fiat is already partnering with Tata to jointly sell the Nano in Latin American markets, so there’s a chance that the Indian city car could eventually show up at Chrysler dealerships.

Speaking of possible US-bound developing-market-mobiles, an Automotive News [sub] reporter spoke to several Volvo dealers asking whether they’d consider selling Chinese vehicles once Ford sells the Swedish brand to Geely. The response was understandably less than effusive:

Until this deal goes down, I’m not even thinking about selling a Geely car. With these deals — look at what happened with Saab — it’s all pure speculation until it happens.

After all, Volvo has been sold on its Swedish premiumness for so long, few dealers would be enthused to overly associate their dealerships with Chinese brands (like lead©, melamine® and slave labor™). India, on the other hand, doesn’t have the knee-jerk negative connotations in this country that Chinese goods do. For now. The launch of the Mahindra brand (if it ever happens) will be crucial in paving the way for acceptance of Indian brand names in the US, but the Chinese don’t yet have a clear vanguard brand. Given its rolling punchlines like the GE, Geely would make a poor first Chinese brand in America.

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11 Comments on “Quote Of The Day: Coming To America Edition...”

  • avatar

    What a coincidence….I’m work in the permits office for a Washington, D.C. area suburb, you know the county that already has the headquarters of VW of America.  Just this morning we saw a permit application for a large tenant space in a commercial building for Tata.  A presence so close to the capital, to me, means their products are on the way.

  • avatar

    “Tata” has been in the US in some capacity for years.  At a previous job when I started in 2002 there was an ongoing project to outsource drafting document conversion to Tata.  There was an in-house Tata contractor handling the projects.
    The Tata group does far more than produce automobiles.  Given that I’m just south of you and I’m relatively familiar with the NoVA counties you mention it’s more probable that the Tata Group’s communications sector is seeking to locate there as there seems to be a grouping of other communication companies in that area.

  • avatar

    And WHY do we in the US need a larger engine?

    • 0 avatar

      Because with only 35HP, the Nano wouldn’t be safe on American highways.  I had a ’67 split window VW Bus with a 1500 cc single port engine with single one barrel carb. I think it had 40HP.
      You know you’re driving an underpowered vehicle when you can’t climb the few minor hills on the Interstates in southern Michigan, which is pretty flat. When I replaced the ’67 with a solid ’72 that needed a motor, I wanted something that could cruise on the highway at 70mph all day so built a 1648 cc engine with dual port heads, a decent street cam, a Holley Weber 2bbl, a performance distribolator and a Melling oil pump that had enough pressure that I had to use oil filters made for diesel trucks, otherwise it would blow out the seam on the side of the filter.
      Also, remember that cars in the US have to have Air Conditioning which needs a few HP.

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    First, to avoid being flamed: I love the Nano.  I think it is a wonderful engineering achievement.  I think it is a great replacement, in India, for all those dangerous and often polluting three-wheelers.
    Okay, now that that’s done: I think even an upgraded Nano will have a very very hard time in the USA.  It is NOT “the world’s cheapest car,” it is “the world’s cheapest NEW car.”  It can succeed in India partly because India effectively bans the import of used cars (yes, you can get one in, but only after paying exorbitant tariffs).  In the USA a Nano competitor such as a 2001 Chevy Metro I just found on Craigslist (as an example, I ain’t buying one!) is offered at $2,800.  Yes, it has 155,000 miles BUT it has front airbags and A/C, 45 mpg or so, etc.  I am not saying it is “as good as” a new Tata Nano, only pointing out that a USA Nano’s competition must include good used cars at $4,000 as well as new Corollas at $14,000.  Looking at a Nano only in comparison with new cars is like shopping for a house and ignoring “used” ones.
    Okay, end of rant (grin).  I feel better now.
    Again, I love the Nano (heck, I bought a smart!), but (and not that TTAC said this, I am only reacting to “Nano Hype” generally) to compare it at say $5,000 (for a US version) to a new car at 3x the price is to only PARTLY evaluate its true competitive position.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t go as far as to say I “love” the Nano but I do admire clever engineering and just like I say I like the Toyota Aygo, I like the Nano.

    I disagree to some extent with the comparison to 2nd hand cars. Where I am you already have the cheap Suzuki Altos and the Proton S16 (google it) and the attraction is 50mpg + 5yrs plus warranty.

    Larger 2nd hand cars won’t have that. Of course no-one likes the old tired formats like the Nissan Versa/Proton S16 which has that forced 3 box look.

  • avatar

    Chrysler had better be careful about selling the Nano next to the Caliber. People may see the interiors of the two, and expect the Caliber to be the cheaper model.

  • avatar

    A Nano would be a complete deathtrap in the U.S.

    Of course, it’s a deathtrap in India too, but since the alternatives are even worse deathtraps, they’re more forgiving.

    Tata has a long way to go.

  • avatar

    I find it ironic that American consumers consider all cars smaller than a Honda Civic to be “deathtraps”….
    While those same American consumers regard motorcycles as symbols of freedom.

  • avatar

    If I was Jack Roush, I’d bring a few Nanos to Livonia and develop performance accessories. With only 35HP, and Tata potentially selling huge numbers of Nanos, the market for performance parts may possibly be very large.

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