Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tata Nano

The Tata Nano has been launched. It's a purdy car. Can seat 4 or 5. 20 km per litre. 8% shorter than Maruti 800 but 21% more internal space (including more headroom). Rear engine 624 cc. Rs. 1 lakh ex-showroom (plus taxes). Base model has no a/c, power steering, etc. More details in a news report here.

The car looks really cute. The designers worked very hard over four years since Ratan Tata announced his pet project to shave costs on practically every component that went into the car. Things that were not deemed absolutely essential were eliminated.

At the product launch in New Delhi today, Ratan Tata spoke of how he was inspired to launch this project when he saw an entire Indian family of four riding on a scooter. His concern for their safety -- and that of millions of Indian families who are compelled to do the same -- motivated him to find a safer and affordable means of transportation for them.

Given the growing population of Indians aspiring for four wheelers, the Tata Nano can be expected to be a hit. There have been noises coming from the usual suspects: "the socially conscious" chatterati who themselves go about in fine cars but cannot quite understand why people from other social strata might want to do the same. Their concerns, while valid, are also baldly hypocritical.

Yes, India (and indeed, the world), needs good, reliable, public transportation. But the fact is that it doesn't exist. Further, it will take decades to create a public transportation infrastructure in a context where corrupt politicians who have absolutely no concern for the welfare of the citizens, rule the roost. In a city such as Bangalore, even the internationally respected N R Narayanmurthy, founder and former chairman of Infosys, was powerless to improve local public transportation -- the then chief minister would not given him the time of day to discuss the matter. In light of this, hats off to Rata Tata, who, in the face of both skepticism and criticism has pulled off a coup. This is Tata's goodbye gift to India -- and the developing world.

Update:

The Nano seems to have taken the nation, and at least some parts of the world by storm, for its price, for the fact that it has come of out India, and for its implications for the developing world as well as for the major auto manufacturers. Some more specs have emerged. Here they are:

Dimensions: 3.1 metres (10.23 feet) long, 1.5 metres wide and 1.6 metres high. Can seat four to five people.
Engine: A two cylinder 623 cc, 33 horsepower rear mounted, all aluminium, multi-point fuel injection petrol engine can power the car to top speeds of 105 kilometres per hour (65 miles per hour).
Fuel Efficiency: 20 kilometres per litre, or 50 miles per gallon is claimed.
Pollution: Exceeds Indian regulatory requirements and can meet strict Euro IV emission standards. In terms of overall pollutants, Tata says the car is better than two-wheelers manufactured in India currently.
Safety: Car exceeds current regulatory requirements with a strong passenger compartment, crumple zones, intrusion resistant doors, seat belts, strong seats and anchorage.


Interview with Ratan Tata on the making of the Nano

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