Tata Nano turns three; life has just begun for the world's cheapest car | autos | Hindustan Times
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Tata Nano turns three; life has just begun for the world's cheapest car

Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car would turn three on Tuesday. It has been a bitter-sweet, tumultuous journey that has oscillated between extremes for the vehicle.

autos Updated: Jul 17, 2012 01:36 IST
Sumant Banerji

Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car would turn three on Tuesday. It has been a bitter-sweet, tumultuous journey that has oscillated between extremes for the vehicle.

Harsh critics quickly wrote epitaphs for Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata's pet project but there is apparently plenty of steam left in his dream.

With a CNG, diesel and possibly, an electric version in the offing, the Nano story is all but over.

Mumbai-based Ashok Raghunath Vichare, who bought the first Nano to roll out, is a happy customer.

His car has so far done 5,000 km and is merrily trudging along.

"There have been no problems with the car at all," Vichare told HT.

"It gives me impeccable mileage and is great both on the highway and off it. Even my daughter now wants to own one now...in orange colour."

Unlike Vichare's car though, Nano's journey has not been as smooth.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/7/17_07_12-buss21c.jpg

While it has vowed one and all for breaking barriers, it has also often been berated for not meeting those expectations, which has shown up in its stuttering sales performance.

It found the maximum takers in March this year when over 10,000 units were sold. Rock bottom was back in November 2010 when sales slid to an abysmal 509 units - the only time it plummeted to three digits. In between lies a tale of unrealised potential.

In the last three years, around 200,000 Nanos have hit the roads. This is less than the 250,000 units it was initially expected to sell annually.

"There is no denying the fact that it has done below expectation in terms of sales," said Abdul Majeed, partner, automotive practices, at consulting firm Price Waterhouse. "The customer has to perceive it as a great value for money product but that has not happened entirely."

The showstopper at the New Delhi Auto Expo in 2008, Nano surprised everybody with its cute car-like looks and most of all its price of a little over Rs 100,000.

The goodwill quickly faded away by at least half a dozen fire instances that dented the car's safety credentials.

But its biggest handicap was its launch with limited production that was hampered by the unrest at Singur, the original site of the factory.

Forced to deliver cars through a draw of lots in addition to a steep booking amount, it did not reach the intended first time car buying customers. Further, dealers were also not ready.

"I don't think we were adequately ready with an advertising campaign or a dealer network," said Ratan Tata, chairman, Tata Sons in January.

"I think we wasted an early opportunity but have not, in fact, seen much in terms of competition for the pricing of the car."

The story that began with a world-stopping price tag now moves into a phase. With his retirement due this December, Ratan Tata may not be around in the group to see Nano try new frontiers but there is much to be built on the kernel he started on.