Will Tata Motor's Nano overtake Maruti 800? | autos | Hindustan Times
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Will Tata Motor's Nano overtake Maruti 800?

Jagdish Khattar, a former head of Maruti 800 manufacturer Maruti Udyog Ltd, says it's too early to say whether the Nano will overtake the original.

autos Updated: Jan 10, 2008 16:41 IST

When Maruti 800 hit Indian roads over two decades ago, few could have visualised the manner in which it revolutionised the way we travel by car. The question today is: will it now give way to the Tata Nano launched Thursday?

Never mind the fact that what was touted as a Rs.100,000 car will cost at least a fifth more - and that's for the standard non-air conditioned version.

Also discount the fact that the formal rollout of the Nano will be only later this year. Seven of the 10 people at Thursday's launch said they would definitely consider it an option.

That's something that has Tata Motors chairman Ratan N. Tata and his team of executives smiling from ear to ear.

Jagdish Khattar, a former head of Maruti 800 manufacturer Maruti Udyog Ltd, says it's too early to say whether the Nano will overtake the original.

"It's a good product but it's still too early to say whether it will overtake the 800 because it caters to a totally new market segment," he said while watching a live telecast of Tata's press conference after unveiling of the Nano.

But clearly, at least one other manufacturer was worried.

An official of Hyundai Motors, which unveiled an LPG version of its Santro Thursday, was more circumspect.

"We definitely see it as impacting our sales," he said in halting English, preferring to maintain anonymity.

Whether or not the Nano will overtake the Maruti 800, one thing is for sure: the current Auto Expo will be remembered for Tata's people's car and for that product alone.

Various other manufacturers are unveiling a slew of products ranging from cars to motorbikes to luxury buses, and to the Madone-5.2, the hi-tech bike ridden by seven times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

But it is the Nano that has captured the hearts and minds of a majority of the spectators.

And the surprising part is that a car that is being touted as the vehicle for the rural masses could have a hard time filtering down there, given the large demand expected from the metros, the mini metros and other towns and cities.

Ratan Tata, however, insists that the Nano is for the rural masses - to the extent he chose the backward Singur area of West Bengal's Hoogly district as the site of the plant where the car will be produced.

"We hope we can make a difference in eastern India. We hope we can improve the quality of life (in Singur)," he said at his press conference Thursday.

Such statements are normally taken with more than a pinch of salt. But when someone like Tata says it with utmost passion, one can be sure he is speaking the truth and nothing but the truth.