The World’s Cheapest Car to Cease Production
Is this ta-ta to the Tata Nano after the company reported zero sales of the modestly priced car in India for the month of January? Automologist MAC, who has driven one, has an idea or two why.
The Tata Nano arrived with much fanfare during its launch in 2008. It was the brainchild of Tata’s patriarch, Ratan Tata, and an attempt to get low earners off two wheels and onto four in India. In a world that is currently obsessed with ostentatious Sports Utility Vehicles, the diminutive Nano seems to have reached the end of the road.
Sales last year were simply disastrous, with a puny total of just 43 units being sold per month and none being made for the export market. This has lead to production being halted well ahead of the planned date in April 2020.
From the very launch, the Nano became a problem for the Tata Group. From protests by farmers about the location of the new factory in West Bengal to the worrying feature of the car spontaneously combusting, the project turned into a loss-making concern. Sales for the Nano have been dwindling since 2013 but the company persevered with production apparently for emotional reasons.
Tata is blaming the demise on new regulations that have been introduced in India that would require increased levels of safety, economy and particularly emissions for all vehicles manufactured. To put it simply, the Nano was never going to be able to meet the new standards without a very expensive redesign.
Truth be told, it was probably the fact that the car was so heavily marketed as the cheapest available that turned the customers off more than anything else. Cars are aspirational, even in a developing market such as India, and thus no one wants to be seen in the cheapest anything, especially a car.
Worse than the ridiculous marketing of the Nano was the drive—it was frightful. When I actually drove one a few years back, it was immediately obvious that the Nano was a large chunk of crap: it felt like it was made from cardboard; it would not stay in a straight line; it was smelly and noisy but worse of all, leaked like a sieve in the rain. And I was driving a brand new one. Not to mention that the darn thing was about as fast as a very slow thing.
I for one will not be mourning the demise of what has to be one of the worst cars ever built.