For all the hype the Chevy Volt and Tesla Roadster get in America, it’s the diminutive Tata Nano that might have the most significant impact on the global car market.
Today, Tata Motors announced a starting price of 100,000 rupees, or $1,980, for the Nano when it goes on sale in India in July. Tata wanted the car to be an affordable alternative to a motorcycle. At this price, mission accomplished.
What will Indian families get for their money? The easiest answer is a safer driving experience for the family than a motorcycle or moped.
The Nano comes in three trims: Standard, CX and LX. The Standard model epitomizes "bare bones" — the model has no power steering, no airbags, no air conditioning or heat, no radio — it doesn’t even come with powered brakes.
The CX model gets you heat, A/C, powered brakes and a fold-down rear seat. The high-end LX gives you full fabric seats, power windows and locks, a front cupholder and a rear spoiler.
All Nanos are powered by a rear-mounted 33-hp two-cylinder engine that powers the rear wheels. A four-speed manual is standard; an automatic transmission isn’t available yet. Top speed is about 65 mph, and the car should achieve 55.5 mpg.
Production will be limited to 50,000 at first, but once a dedicated Nano factory is finished by the end of 2009, production should increase to half a million. Tata wants to eventually sell a million Nanos a year in India alone.
This is great for India, but will America ever see this car? Maybe. According to MSNBC, Tata is designing a version of the Nano that meets U.S. safety and emissions standards and should be ready for launch in about three years.
At the 2009 Geneva auto show, Tata unveiled the Nano Europa, a European-envisioned Nano featuring a bigger engine, an automatic transmission, alloy wheels and a slightly longer wheelbase. It will reportedly meet Europe’s strict safety standards.
The Europa might be the model we get in the U.S., but even with America’s re-acquaintance with thrift, the Nano might be too Spartan a choice for most Americans.