It’s not even a year since the world’s cheapest car, Tata Nano, hit the roads, but after a brand new Nano went ablaze in Mumbai recently there are fears that the dream car story may just be on its way to becoming a nightmare.
With so much negative publicity in the air, experts believe Nano will have to bear the brunt of consumer apathy “in the near term”. “In the case of Nano where so much is at stake, the room for error is wafer-thin,” said a senior automotive analyst.
Last year, three Nanos caught fire in Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Delhi due to a faulty combination switch (the lever behind steering wheel that has controls for windshield wipers, headlights and indicator lights), which the company promptly replaced.
The company, however, dismisses the recent Mumbai fire as a “stray incident.”
“This is just one stray incident and not a generic issue with the Nano. There was something wrong with that particular unit. It’s an old unit manufactured in 2008. The matter is still under investigation,” said Debasis Ray, spokesperson for Tata Motors.
The aggrieved customers though, are a hassled lot. “My wife does not want to go for any car now,” said Satish Sawant, the owner of the Nano that caught fire in Mumbai.
The company also refuses to recall Nano. Prima facie there is evidence for it. Four of the approximately 30,000 Nanos on the road have reported problems so far.
Hormazd Sorabjee, editor, Autocar India magazine, calls 2010 as the year of recalls. The epidemic engulfed carmakers such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Suzuki, Volkwagen, Hyundai and General Motors this year.
With Nano production set to perk up next month courtesy the start of the Sanand factory in Gujarat, and fresh bookings likely to be started later this year, the jury on the $2,500 car is still out.