Dawn of the $2,000 Car – Tata Nano

Consumer Reports News: March 23, 2009 04:32 PM

Tata Motors announced that it will begin accepting orders for its $1,980 Nano “people’s car” on April 9th. (No relation to the Apple iPod Nano.) The ultra-affordable Nano promises to make automobile ownership more widespread in native India and likely beyond, and it serves as an interesting bookend in a corporate portfolio that also includes Jaguar and Land Rover.

Much like the XO laptop designed for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) mission, the Nano represents a creative initiative to produce a low-cost car that can reach an expansive market. Tata expects significant demand and will be using a lottery system to handle the initial orders. (Today, the Nano section of the tatamotors.com site was down for hours, perhaps reflecting initial interest with the announcement.) Production is expected to reach 350,000 vehicles a year.

The Nano is a 10-foot-long four-seat car powered by 624cc, two-cylinder engine with a four-speed transmission. It will be offered in three trim levels. The base Standard model is barebones enough to make the Flintstonemobile seem luxurious, but it does feature a fold-down rear seat and an 18-month/24,000-kilometer warranty. The midlevel CX boasts heating and air conditioning, power brakes, two-tone seats, and a parcel shelf. The relatively premium LX adds fabric seats, central locking, front power windows, fog lamps, electronic trip meter, a cup holder in the front console, and power point outlet. The LX is also distinguished by unique colors and rear spoiler.

While there are no plans for the Nano to arrive on American shores, we will have an opportunity to check out the company’s two entries for the Automotive X Prize. Tata is expected to enter an electric microcar in the Alternative class, which requires a minimum range of 100 miles and two-passenger capacity. Tata is designing a hybrid to compete in the Mainstream class, which requires a 200-mile range and four-passenger capacity.

Jeff Bartlett

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