All go for baby Nano

The tiny Tata is off to con­quer the world, writes KEVIN HEP­WORTH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

THE world’s cheapest new car has cleared the first im­por­tant hur­dle for sales in Aus­tralia. The Tata Nano has sur­vived its first sig­nif­i­cant crash-test trial in Europe as the In­dian com­pany gets se­ri­ous about ex­ports.

The baby Nano was de­vel­oped with a tar­get price of 100,000 ru­pees, or $2500, as a way of putting or­di­nary In­di­ans on the road. It has no real com­pe­ti­tion at home, where most In­di­ans ride mo­tor­cy­cles or bi­cy­cles.

The car is still some way from be­ing cer­ti­fied for sale in any coun­tries out­side In­dia. Tata, which also owns Jaguar and Land Rover, chose to sub­ject the Nano to a round of frontal-off­set crashes at Eng­land’s MIRA ve­hi­cle re­search cen­tre un­der the su­per­vi­sion of Bri­tain’s Ve­hi­cle Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Au­thor­ity.

Tata spokesman De­ba­sis Ray says the de­ci­sion to put the Nano through the test process was to sig­nal the se­ri­ous­ness of the tiny five-seater.

‘‘The pur­pose of the tests we sub­jected the Tata Nano to at MIRA was to demon­strate that the ve­hi­cle struc­ture is ap­pro­pri­ate for Euro­pean leg­is­la­tion,’’ Ray says. ‘‘The tests proved that.

‘‘Tata Motors has al­ready de­vel­oped a model for Europe, the Tata Nano Europa, which is ex­pected to be launched there in 2011. The com­pany is also de­vel­op­ing a model for the US, which is ex­pected to be launched af­ter Europe.’’

Ray stopped short of con­firm­ing a pro­gram for Nano sales to Aus­tralia but said over­seas sales would not stop with Europe and Amer­ica.

‘‘There are in­deed plans to mar­ket the Nano in other coun­tries as well, but specifics on mar­kets and time­lines are yet to be con­cluded,’’ Ray says.

What makes the MIRA tests more im­pres­sive is that the car that passed the 56km/h, 40 per cent off­set frontal and side-im­pact tests was not the one un­der de­vel­op­ment for Europe but a slightly mod­i­fied In­dian do­mes­tic model with a driver’s airbag and an ex­tra front-strength­en­ing mem­ber be­hind the front bumper.

The next step is full EuroNCAP test­ing on the more lux­u­ri­ous Europa model, some­thing the com­pany hopes to do soon. It ex­pects a four-star out­come.

But the Nano is still a ba­sic car. You ac­cess the lug­gage com­part­ment by fold­ing down the rear seats from in­side the car, there is no power steer­ing, only a sin­gle wind­screen wiper, one side mir­ror in­stead of two and three in­stead of four or five wheel­nuts.

The car has no airbag or an­ti­skid brakes and the two-cylin­der rear-mounted en­gine puts out only 24kW and 48Nm, with a claimed econ­omy of less than 4 litres for 100km.

In­dian buy­ers can get an up­mar­ket Nano with air­con­di­tion­ing and the lux­ury LX adds power win­dows and cen­tral lock­ing.

Ex­port mod­els are ex­pected to be larger and have a three­cylin­der en­gine, anti-skid brakes and at least two airbags.

Nano tech­nol­ogy: In­dia’s Tata Nano Europa is ex­pected to be launched in Europe in 2011.

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