Saturday, February 6, 2010

2012 Tata Nano America Review and Prices

A version of India's new "people's car" may come to America with a chump-change $7,000 price. Add in urban-jungle agility, high mpg, and surprising space, and this cute puppy could spell trouble for other U.S.-market minicars.

What We Know About the 2012 Tata Nano America

It's being called a 21st-century Model T, a masterpiece of cost-effective engineering, a new "people's car" that will change the global auto industry and millions of lives. It's the Tata Nano, revealed in early 2007 and finally available in its native India at a starting price of just $2,500.

Ratan Tata, CEO of the Tata Group combine, was determined to build a genuine four-passenger car that would be priced only a bit higher--and be much safer--than the small motorcycles most Indian families use to tote three and four people at a time. The result is a tall, egg-shaped 4-door with about the same footprint as the original 1960s British Mini, minimal equipment, and a rear-mounted 2-cylinder engine making 35 horsepower from 624 cubic centimeters. Top speed is barely 65 mph, the comfortable cruising pace only 55 mph.

The India-market Nano may be too Spartan for First World countries, but it's just right for the millions of Third World consumers who crave a car but could never afford one before. As Ravi Kant, the head of the Tata Motors division, recently told The Economist magazine: "Through the explosive growth of cellphones and television, the aspirations of rural people are converging with [those of] urban people...The interest in the Nano is worldwide."

So perhaps it was no surprise that Tata presented a deluxe version at the March 2009 Geneva Auto Show even before home-market deliveries were underway. Though this Nano Europa was billed merely "for future launch" in developed countries, Mr. Tata later said that the Europa would likely start sale on the Continent in 2010 or 2011. Since then, one source has reported that Italy, Spain, Poland and the UK will be the initial markets. More important for U.S. consumers, Mr. Tata says his team is also working on a U.S. edition, what we call the 2012 Tata Nano America. It would take on the Smart ForTwo, the Korean-built 2011 Chevrolet Spark, a likely Toyota or Scion iQ and a possible 2011 Ford Ka in what's shaping up as a whole new market class.