Tata launches people’s car; will take to the roads in July.

Our Bureau

Mumbai, March 23 The Tata Nano, India’s least expensive car, was launched at a glittering ceremony at the Parsi Gymkhana on Mumbai’s Marine Drive on a Monday evening. The people’s car will hit the roads in July.

However, customers (the first one lakh of whom will be selected through a random computerised process) will have to wait a long while for eventual possession as Tata Motors hopes to produce just about 50,000 Nanos this year from its interim Pantnagar plant in Uttarakhand.

“We have done this a good nine months before the new plant in Gujarat will come onstream. We felt that we needed to get the product into the market since there was a great deal of expectations. We have fulfilled these in somewhat trying circumstances to get the product into the marketplace at this point in time,” said Mr Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Motors, at a press conference here on Monday.

Annual capacity

The new facility in Sanand will be commissioned in 2010 and have an annual capacity of 2.50 lakh units, going up to five lakh eventually. This will be the mother plant with at least 4-6 satellite units (including Pantnagar) expected to be commissioned in the coming years.

The Nano will have three versions, starting with a basic one without air-conditioning and two others with added features. “The base version is what we promised the people of India. We hope to usher in a new form of transport; it never was conceived as being the cheapest car but one that would give the people of India an opportunity to own a car that had not been within their reach before. I hope we will achieve this bearing in mind we made a promise and that we have kept that promise as we move forward,” Mr Tata said.

Conceived six years ago, the Nano project is a milestone in terms of the fact that from conception to unveiling (at the Auto Expo in January 2008) to attempting to establish a factory in Kolkata, “we were able to put the product before the public today”.

“With humility, I would have to say that all of us have been overwhelmed with the reaction that is taking place. All that we set out to do was to move families in a safer way; that is how the project started. And the affordable price meant that the cost was set,” Mr Tata said.

It was not easy going for the team working on this plan. “I think there was a sense of disbelief for 3-4 years as we worked in relative isolation until we unveiled the car in January last year. The response at that time was startling for us,” he added.

‘Serendipitous’

The objective, by the end of the day, was to meet the needs of those people who “were being transported by other means”. As Mr Tata put it, “Never did we look at this being either an engineering achievement or new paradigm or anything of this nature that it appears to have attracted attention for. It is serendipitous in some manner that this has happened in this way and very rewarding for the people that worked on the project.”

With its price tag, the car is expected to change the dynamics of the automobile market in terms of putting pressure on two-wheelers and small cars.

Speculation is also rife that some carmakers could slash prices as a result on the lines of what occurred when the Indica was launched in end-1998.

Time-line
Technical Specifications
Component's Challenge

Related Stories:
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Nano booking likely to cost Rs 70,000
Revolutions in wheels and tyres
A new story in every component
Cutting on costs, not technology

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 24, 2009)
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