Automotive News [sub] reports that Tata plans on bringing a version of its Nano subcompact to the US market “in about two years.” About? “Maybe two years and six months,” equivocated Tata chairman Ratan Tata at the Cornell Global Forum on Sustainable Enterprise. But the Indian firm faces at least one major challenge: where to sell the thing. Jaguar/Land Rover North America spokesfolks say that “Tata will not use Jaguar Land Rover’s distribution network and vice versa.” For obvious reasons. The Nano boasts none of the small-but-premium appeal of BMW’s MINI or Chrysler’s forthcoming Fiat 500. So where will it sell? Roger Penske’s Saturn World Market? Global Vehicles U.S.A.’s 330-strong Mahindra distribution network? Wal-Mart?
Either way, the Nano “will need to meet all emission and crash standards,” says Tata. Which will likely inflate the Nano’s Indian-market $2,500 pricetag. Still, its relatively low price, light weight and rugged simplicity should make it popular with shadetree EV conversion nuts. Especially with similarly sized EVs like the Mitsu MiEV set to be priced at over $40K. But with Jaguar planning a “post-recession” sportscar launch in 2011, Tata seems to be hedging its bets. So which will do better, the British convertible or the Indian budget car special? Or is the market so fragmented that such decisions aren’t either-or?
Keeping things in context, this car is perfect for the Indian market, since most people will be moving up from 50cc scooters or looking for something a bit more modern to replace their long-drawn-out Hindustan "Amby". Americans, on the other hand, will be stepping down from larger compact cars or (for a farther stretch) SUVs with 13mpg stats. Frankly, I see this car selling in numbers of a few thousand. Then the fun will begin, as people get to experience how it feels to take their kids' Cozy Cruiser out for a highway jaunt. $5/gal gas won't make people flock like seagulls to it. At best, people will drop their SUVs like dead weight, make more discretionary budget cuts (there goes the movie/fast food/cable tv) and demand more 4 cylinder midsized cars -- cars they can COMFORTABLY get into. Thinking that people will run to subcompacts at the spike of the pump is rather wishful thinking on the parts of some. The $5/gal car of America is a 4cyl Camry. Or a Fusion Hybrid.
I don't know about the US, but in Europe that car will sell. With city speed limits of 30 or 40 km/h (that's 18 to 25 mph for the metric-impaired) and nearly immobile rush-hour traffic, the (probably) bad handling or poor crash safety will not be an issue. Besides, there are very few large SUVs and pick-up trucks here, so driving that thing won't feel as scary as it could. And I almost forgot the most important thing: winter driving. The Nano will introduce many new drivers to the thrill of driving a rear engine RWD car in the snow. Hopefully you can turn the ESP off..
here's you pal and mine, Bob Lutz, explaining the thinking behind Nano and 3rd world style vehicles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGA8s8PeDLA china very tenuously being '3rd world' i think they should have ended this video with Bob flying off into the distance in his L39 jet fighter
In Europe you can buy plenty of 50 km/h car like vehicles. Also city limits may be 30 km/h in the average street but that isn't true for the main streets. And the main streets are what are used most.