Monday, November 11, 2013

The Tata Nano

This is a remarkable car.  The short Autocar video is worth watching:

And here's the Wikipedia page, from which many of the facts below are drawn:

Whether the Nano's top and cruising speeds are 70 and 60/65, or 65 and 55 is irrelevant.  So is the 50% price increase in India.  So is the fact that unit sales in India have not met projections.  So is the possibility that it might, or might not, be marketed in Europe and the United States.  So is the fact that it lacks pollution controls--they can be added.

This car can put India, Southeast Asia, South America, and Africa on wheels.  China too, if the Chinese would let Tata sell it there (doubtful).  The Tata can carry four people and one small suitcase, protected from weather, economically.  It has twice the capacity of a Smart ForTwo in the same dimensions, but with half the engine size.

Public transportation is the obvious answer for moving people around in urban environments, worldwide.  And, when people in the States get used to the idea, here too.  I took the train into downtown Chicago for two years.  It was far preferable to, and faster than, being stuck in rush hour traffic.  In France and Belgium, almost everyone walks in towns and cities.  It's much more convenient, and faster, than being stuck in traffic on narrow, congested streets.  But cars like the Nano have a role too.  Most people, everywhere, need to get across town, or to the airport or train station, now and then.

Crashworthiness is an obvious problem.  It is hard to see how the Nano could be sold in Europe and North America, even if it had potential buyers.  (That's why a Smart ForTwo costs five times what a Nano does, and carries only two people.)  But there's no reason the Nano couldn't be re-engineered as an electric car, with crashworthiness waivers for low-speed urban use.  Or Tata can go upmarket with a bigger, heavier, more crashworthy car: "The all-new Notso Nano."  ;-)

The Ford Model T put America on wheels (and made the horse obsolete).  The Austin, Beetle, Fiat Topolino, and Renault 2CV put Europe on wheels after World War Two.  Cars like the Nano go back to those roots, and will put the Developing World on wheels.

This is the "LX" interior.  In Japanese marketing, that means stripped.  I wonder if it means the same in India?  The
Nano reminds me of the Beetles and Fiats imported into the States in the 1950's.  And of VW's famous ad campaigns
"Think Small" and "Less Is More" that flipped the expectations of what a car should be and do for the "reverse snobs"
of the World War Two generation and the soon-to-be-car-buying counter-cultural Baby Boomers.

With Seth Meyers in his SNL days, I have to ask "Really?!?"  Seriously?!?

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