The track record of the world’s cheapest car, the Nano, is increasingly turning out to be a story of repeated concerns arising over adequate safety, followed by confidence-building measures by manufacturers Tata Motors — while sales go into a tailspin.
The latest occurred on Wednesday when Tata Motors said it would contact every one of the 70,000-odd Nano customers and offer to fit, free of charge, two additional safety features that will prevent fires or short circuits. Company spokesmen, however, insisted this did not amount to a “recall” of the cars.
This is the third time in a little over a year when the company has intervened and taken preventive steps to convince customers about the car’s safety credentials. The new safety components that will be added include a cover tool on its catalytic converter and fuses in its electrical components.
At least six Nanos have caught fire since sales began in July 2009, and despite repeated assurances from Tata, doubts about its safety have risen.
As in the past, Tata blamed tinkering with the car for the fires.
“We have noticed instances of additional foreign electrical equipment having been installed or foreign material left on the exhaust system,” the company said in a statement.
“We have decided to make the car even more robust. We will do this by providing additional protection in the exhaust system and the electrical system. Option lies with our customers on whether they would like to avail for these measures.”
The process will begin from the third week of this month.
“We would like to state again that the Tata Nano is a safe car with a robust design, state-of-the-art components and built with an uncompromising attention to quality in all aspects... Customers can rest assured there are no generic defects in the Tata Nano,” the statement said.
Sales of the car already bear signs of the adverse impact. Nano’s sales have fallen by 66% since July, from 9,000 units then to 3,065 units last month.
Tata Motors CEO Carl-Peter Forster said, “The car travels to the hinterland to places where no car has been to,” and insisted demand would go up again.