All go for baby Nano
The tiny Tata is off to conquer the world, writes KEVIN HEPWORTH
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.