A year after its launch in India, Tata Motors' much-awaited "people's car", the Tata Nano, is poised to hit the international market, with Nepal beginning the first test-drive of the world's cheapest car next month.
Sipradi Trading Pvt Ltd, the Kathmandu-based Nepali company that is the sole dealer for Tata vehicles in the Himalayan republic, said five Tata Nanos are arriving here for the customary test-drive before they are launched.
"The first five cars will be test-driven in different locations in Kathmandu, including hilly terrain and downhill, to gauge the Nano's suitability for Nepal's roads," said Pravin Khatiwada, head of Sipradi's Passenger Car Business Unit division.
"Tata has promised us that the first Nanos for sale would arrive in the first quarter of 2011, soon after manufacturing begins in full swing at the new Tata plant in Gujarat's Sanand."
Since the Indian car maker announced it was launching the world's cheapest car at a factory price of Rs 1,00,000, there has been tremendous interest in Nepal, where new cars cost substantially more than the original price, thanks to whopping duties.
The overall duties - ranging from customs to excise - add up to about 205 per cent of the original price.
Though Sipradi said the price has yet not been fixed and bookings have not yet begun, the public anticipation is that the cheapest Nano could cost around Rs 5,00,000 in Nepal.
"We will be selling the Nano at rock-bottom price in Nepal," Khatiwada said.
So far, the Nano has made its debut abroad at car shows. But the first international market will be Nepal, which last year won the honour of seeing the highest commercial sale of Tata vehicles in the international market.
According to Sipradi, Tata Motors' dealers for almost three decades, Indian cars dominate Nepal's car market with Hyundai, Maruti and Tata vehicles being the most sought after cars.
Tata vehicles account for nearly 22 per cent of the four-wheeler market in Nepal. The Tata Vista remains the most popular car from the stable.
Last year, Khatiwada said, 700 units of the car were sold in Nepal.