Never has the launch of a car been so readily anticipated. With the rolling out of the first Nano on Monday, the Great Waiting was over — as was the dramatic journey littered with bumps and hair-pin bends and rumblers and roadblocks between 2003 in Geneva and March 23, 2009 in Mumbai.
But as everyone who has done his or her bit of chasing things (or people) knows, there is a great ‘plopping’ sound that accompanies the actual fruition of one’s dreams. This marks the end of a beginning and the beginning of something else. While Ratan Tata will be a greatly relieved man today, it is the Great Indian Driving Class that will be delivering its verdict over the next few days and weeks and months.
Sentimental triumph (along with hungover protests from agriculturalists like Mamata Banerjee) will be put in the (admittedly almost non-existent) Nano’s boot and the car will be tested on the roads. Theory will be translated into practice, slowly revolving models of the new car will be made to show its stuff in the heat and dust and traffic signals of our cities.
But will the Nano deliver? The price tag certainly has the punters betting favourably — as does the nifty design of the three variants of the Nano. But coming as it does at a time when the on-road price of Rs 1.3-1.8 lakh seems much more than it did when it was first announced, the question now is whether the Nano will be snapped up by the unfuelled masses.
Sure it’s a revolution on four wheels. Sure Henry Ford is sitting up in the Great Auto Factory in the Sky to see whether the Nano will be the 21st century equivalent of the 20th century Model T.
But in the end, it’ll boil down to one thing: whether the Nano is ready for its time. Only sales figures — tied to purchasing power — in the ensuing months can determine that.