Being the cheapest car in the world wasn’t enough to win hearts and minds.
If you haven’t heard of Tata Motors before, we don’t blame you. The company’s own cars aren’t sold in the United States, but they’re a name that hits closer to home than you might think. Why? Because they’re the company that currently owns both Jaguar and Land Rover after Ford sold them off in 2008. However, while they own brands renowned for luxury the world over, they also make a car that’s at the polar opposite end of the spectrum. And this is it: the Tata Nano.
Or, rather, this was it. It’s been on sale since 2008, billed as the “world’s cheapest car”. And it was certainly cheap: Indian customers could buy one for the equivalent of just $2,000. For reference, one of the cheapest cars on sale in the U.S. is the miserly Ford Fiesta S, which omits luxuries like power windows. Even that starts off north of $14,000.
A habit of catching fire probably didn’t help
So what did you get for a car that’s one-seventh the price of a Fiesta? You did get a car that weighs around 1,400 pounds. You also got four doors, four wheels – well, ish – and an engine, but that’s about it. That engine wasn’t particularly powerful, either. At 624 cc (or 0.624 liters) and two cylinders, it put out just 37 horsepower. It does seat four, but take a moment to imagine how slow it would be if it were fully laden on those 12-inch wheels.
It wasn’t a particularly safe car, as it turns out. That’s not just because it has four-wheel drum brakes, either. The car performed questionably in crash tests, which delayed its initial production. Naturally, being so cheap, it doesn’t have airbags. However, its sales plunged after models started catching fire and have never recovered. As Engadget points out, the Nano’s lack of popularity stems, at least in part, from its design.
While it started off reasonably well, selling between 70,000 and 75,000 units each year from 2010 to 2012, current sales figures aren’t so rosy. According to an Bloomberg report, Tata produced one (you read that correctly, one) unit in June, versus 275 units in June 2017. Exports were even worse, totaling zero (down from 25 in June 2017). The Tata Nano’s sales performance combined with its cheapness stand as a stark contrast in the Indian market. In India, sales are up across every segment, from motorcycles to trucks.
As it stands, there’s no mention of a future Nano. If Tata did manufacture a new version, they’d likely have to build it as a more conventional car. There’s cheap, but people evidently didn’t want cost-cutting for the sake of cost-cutting. Instead, a focus on value over sheer sticker price might be necessary.
Stay tuned to TFLcar.com for more updates! Subscribe to The Fast Lane Car and TFLnow for more news, views and real-world reviews. To see how a much more powerful small car performs with four people aboard, check out the video below! It’s an oldie, but a goodie, where the Ford Fiesta takes on a fully-loaded Ike Gauntlet.