Tata’s Nano was launched with much fanfare in 2009, as the world’s cheapest car and a symbol of India’s automotive and economic aspirations. But first Tata had problems with its factory, which was to be built on land [allegedly] stolen from local farmers. Then, early last year, the cars started catching fire and refused to stop. Then finance was the issue, and when Tata revamped its finance, advertising and retail presence, it looked like things were beginning to improve. It turns out the bump was short-lived. After hitting 5k monthly sales last December, volume has fallen again dropping to 3,260 units in July (1/8th the volume of its main rival the Maruti Suzuki Alto) according to indiancarsbikes.in, which reckons
Startlingly, the most fuel efficient petrol car in the country, which is the most inexpensive too isn’t finding takers in a market troubled by high petrol prices and rising loan interest rates, that is clearly favoring cheaper and more fuel efficient cars… the market isn’t biting and the Nano sales have begun the downward spiral, this time continually.
So, what’s Tata going to fix to get its attempt at “India’s Model T” back off the ground. How about “everything”?
The crew at indiancarsbikes think they know what the Nano’s problem is:
a diesel engined Nano is the need of the day if Tata intends to reverse the Nano’s fortunes
A diesel engine is supposed to arrive by the end of this year, and could get up to 95 MPG (non-EPA)… although likely only with a CVT transmission that is also supposed to debut late this year. And sometime in 2012 a hybrid drivetrain could appear, although again, the Nano is already the most efficient car on the Indian market… it’s unlikely that more efficiency is the missing ingredient. In fact, if I had to guess, I’d say more standard equipment might be the key to improving sales.
But instead of upgrading the Nano’s equipment, a styling change could be coming, courtesy of Tata design boss (and designer of the new-look Jags) Ian Callum. Tata’s boss of Indian operations PM Telang was cagey about Tata receiving styling assistance from the Jaguar team, but he admits
They (JLR) are part of the Tata family, so some idea exchange will always happen
So, what’s Telang’s solution? Not much.
Nano has a different clientele, people who perhaps never thought they could own a car. That’s why the decision making process is a little more complex as that’s a big step for them. It’s a very unconventional vehicle, so it’s taking some time in the market
Ultimately, it seems that, before radically altering the Nano, Tata will see if other markets take to it with more enthusiasm. Exports have begun to neighboring Sri Lanka and Nepal, and talks are under way with the Indonesian government about production for the South East Asian markets. And Telang says talks are underway with other Asian countries as well as Latin American countries about exports and eventually CKD assembly, telling the WSJ [sub]
Looking at the potential, we can think of importing the car first and later assembling it in those countries. At present we are considering many countries for assembling the Nano, but there is no timeline
Whereas the Model T caught the public’s attention nearly instantly, the Nano faces a lot more competition and very different world. Tata certainly thought that selling a cheap car in fast-growing developing would be like printing money, but the reality turns out to be much more difficult.