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Old 27th June 2013, 07:56   #1
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Default Tata Nano - Will it ever sell in vast numbers?

The rest of the world looked on enviously as India's car-buying public were offered a genuinely new design of honest car at such a low price, with few pretensions and an honesty which has vanished from most European cars. Many hoped it would continue the honesty and success of Europe's people's cars and expected it to sell in vast numbers, yet this doesn't seem to be the case. Why not? Below, I describe its post-war austerity-beating European ancestors. One step up from German 'bubble-cars' and motorbikes, these cars put Europe back on track to its modern industry.

When in 1959 the British Motor Corporation launched Alec Issigonis's Morris Mini-Minor/Austin Seven (subsequently the Mini, for short) it initially didn't sell well. It took a few famous people to start using it for the car to become desirable. At the time it was revolutionary - front wheel drive, massively roomy for its miniscule exterior dimensions (3 metres and 5 cm bumper to bumper) and it handled like a race car with rubber cones for suspension. The engine was an existing, conventional design but mounted cross-wise - a first - to save space. Its wheels were just 10 inches in diameter, famously its designer stated that a car which didn't have a brilliant ride was safer, as on a long journey you wouldn't be lulled to sleep and would be forced to take a break! On first experiencing the car, Enzo Ferrari said he was pleased it wasn't as pretty as his cars - implying it was as enjoyable to drive. The Mini was produced until 2000, for 41 years.

Italy is famous for its ability to imbue its small cars with character and huge amounts of charm - it didn't fail with the 1957 'Nuova 500' (new 500), even though this car was even more spartan than the Mini or 2cv - and lighter. It was also less boundary-stretching, with no real innovations or remarkable features. Its air-cooled inline twin cylinder engine sat at the back of the car, driving the rear wheels. Only two seats were originally provided and in the back of this tiny car (even shorter than the Mini) there was an unfurnished bench. The public didn't take to the car readily, prefering their motorbikes and pre-war 500s. Slowly the car became a little more powerful, a little more comfortable and slightly better equipped and sales steadily rose. Even though the car feels very cramped inside compared with its French and British contemporaries, with a buzzy and vibration-prone engine, its cuteness overcomes any failings. It remained in production until 1975, just 18 years.

CitroŽn, Europe's single largest and most prosperous mass motor manufacturer in the early and mid-twentieth century, had launched their cheap people's car for France in 1948, having redesigned the all-alloy original (which never reached the salesrooms due to the German invasion) in secret during WW2. Its engineering was heavily influenced by the aeronautical influences of its designers, being both hugely strong, extremely lightweight and with advanced engineering, with little respect for consumer expectations. It was also front wheel drive (not a revolution for CitroŽn) and had a lightweight aluminium air-cooled flat-twin which was both simple yet sophisticated, mounted in the nose of the car on the separate chassis. With a canvas roof for practicality, large wheels and compliant suspension, the car could go anywhere and was very tough. It was roomy, economical and very comfortable. The rear seat lifted out in seconds, the body panels were as easily removed for repair. With no cylinder head gaskets, no distributor, no radiator and associated paraphernalia, it often gave instinting service for over 20 years with nothing more than the odd oil and spark plug change - and its tyres could last for 100,000km. From the very beginning, the car was in massive demand, to the extent the company limited supplies to the most needy in the initial years of production. The last car rolled down the production line in 1990.

Beyond the obvious similarity of its rear engine driving the rear wheels, there appear to be other similarities of the Tata Nano with the little Fiat. It doesn't try to break any barriers with the driving experience or its engineering, but does the job expected of it easily and effectively. As with the Fiat, it sounds to me that its sheer minimalism is perceived as being rather poverty-stricken, so the company has continuously made improvements and additions. But the styling is smart and modern, it will carry four people and there is adequate luggage space. With such a small engine the economy is impressive and there is far less pollution and infinitely more safety than with a motorbike.

The lack of innovative engineering didn't prevent the little Fiat from selling in vast numbers - equally, the little CitroŽn and BMC Mini made very little money in sales profits for its makers. With Tata having suffered at least two PR disasters relating to the car and with some criticism for it not being of sufficient Indian design, it isn't yet selling really fast. The first Minis didn't either - they also suffered from body water leaks (its testing had been in Spain) and clogged carburettor jets (ladies cleaning the inside of the fuel tanks had used the wrong sort of duster!). It was designed by a Greek, born in Turkey who was first cousin once removed to a BMW director.

Will the Nano's sales start to pick up? It has much more competition than any of the three European cars I describe above and Tata is a relative newcomer to the small car market. With a few additions and perhaps a little more power, it will no doubt do a little better. Surely an Indian manufacturer can make a success of the little car? If they don't, then they will have learnt so much that their second attempt would be more likely to succeed. The potential for sales is so massive - not only in India but throughout Africa as well. Tata has the opportunity to become a global name, with profits to send them into the 22nd century.

I look forward to hearing the Indian motorist's feelings about the Tata Nano - do you regard it as a good car or not?
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Last edited by FlatOut : 27th June 2013 at 08:09.
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Old 27th June 2013, 08:45   #2
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Default re: Tata Nano - Will it ever sell in vast numbers?

Interesting post. I was pondering over the same question a few days back and here's is what I could come up with. Tata has an incredibly good low cost base in the Nano and even if they decide to make it upmarket, it still wont cost more than the entry level hatchbacks by other manufacturers.
If I were Tata, this is what I would do. I would start with Nano as base and design it to look more upmarket, aka Tata Pixel, add a third cylinder to the engine making it around 900 or 1000cc developing around 50 bhp and load it up with the usual features and the garnish it with features like alloy wheels, climate control or even openable sunroof and market it as an upmarket city car loaded with features priced at around 3.5 lakhs on road. I am pretty sure Tata will have a lot of takers for that car at that price with those features.

Mind you when doing all this, product quality should be the prime focus.

Last edited by extreme_torque : 27th June 2013 at 08:46.
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Old 27th June 2013, 09:13   #3
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Default re: Tata Nano - Will it ever sell in vast numbers?

You have pointed out a few cars which are very appropriate comparisons for the Nano.

Firts, I dont think the Nano in its present for will set the charts on fire on a month on monthly basis. Even with changes, it is not likely to happen.

But overall, I still think Nano will go down in history as a sales success, because:

1. Its a great product, and will have a very very long shelf life. Like the Mini or the Beetle or the FIAT 500, I think the Nano will sell for decades together with minimal changes.

2. Nano as a product also has international appeal. With suitable changes it can be just as home in Mumbai, Tokyo, Shanghai, Seoul, Bangkok, Sydney, LA, Chicago, NYC, London, Paris, Moscow, Cairo, Lagos, Johannesburg or anywhere else for that matter. If Tata are bold enough you can expect Nano to be present on pretty much every continent and enjoy reasonable success in various forms everywhere.

3. With increasing congestion in cities and fuel efficiency concerns all over the world, cars like the Nano are poised to become huge successes. Tata needs to remain positive and keep developing the car so that it is ready.
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Old 27th June 2013, 09:46   #4
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Default re: Tata Nano - Will it ever sell in vast numbers?

There are reasons why the Nano isn't a great seller (public perception aside):
1. Low engine power. It's fine for a city drive, but Indians generally want features they rarely use. Remember, we don't have the roads that the other mini cars were driven in. When you have to go over a hundred speed breakers and potholes, the car feels VERY weak.
This effect is exacerbated by the fact that almost everyone and their grandpa learnt to drive on a more powerful car. For me, going to an Alto or a Spark is unthinkable after the Ikon.
2. The mileage- It is comparable to M800 or an Alto, not really great. Perhaps with CNG...
3. The rattling engine- People can deal with the above parts, but the car makes an awful amount of noise when it's revved. It FEELS cheap. A more silent car would be nice.
4. The price- Many would reason they get similar mileage and better performance from a second hand 800 or Alto or Zen- which, in my opinion, offer an amazing deal at the moment. For almost the same price. With more features.

I would go for this car if it were more powerful and quieter- its dimensions are really more suitable for the city. Its safety factor is good. Perhaps Tata should consider a petro-electric hybrid (Revolo?).
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Old 27th June 2013, 10:35   #5
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Default re: Tata Nano - Will it ever sell in vast numbers?

Quote:
Originally Posted by julupani View Post
But overall, I still think Nano will go down in history as a sales success, because:

I think the Nano will sell for decades together with minimal changes.
I think that's too optimistic. Nano is now duped as the cheapest car in the world. Most of its sales will happen in India only, low or high. With people's income rising, not many would prefer the Nano because car buying in India is an aspirational affair and people may not like themselves to be associated with Nano's cheapest tag. Also, Tata Motors has tied its own hands while projecting this car. Means that they cannot increase the price beyond a limit, even if they improve the car by leaps and bounds, due to its image. Even if the Nano is launched with a completely different engine, IMO, there may not be much improvement in the sales figure due to this reason.

IMO, the car may go down in history as a decent product going down due to a marketing failure.
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Old 27th June 2013, 10:44   #6
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Default re: Tata Nano - Will it ever sell in vast numbers?

Here is why it wont :

"Sir, would you like to buy the cheapest car in the whole world?"

When a product is marketed as the cheapest, buyers are also equated to be cheap. No body likes to be cheap. Yet everybody likes a good deal.

Market the Nano as a 'good deal' rather than the 'cheapest' and it should certainly sell more.
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Old 27th June 2013, 11:11   #7
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Default re: Tata Nano - Will it ever sell in vast numbers?

There is no reason why this little beauty shouldn't do well. It is spacious and the mileage is superb. It does not seem to serve the original purpose it was designed with in mind i.e. a family replacement for a two wheeler possibly because the base price has shot up northwards . It seems to more of a second car for the family. Adding some bells and whistles should certainly make it a cool car to drive. I presume that the volumes will take off when the diesel models hit the roads.
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Old 27th June 2013, 11:25   #8
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Default re: Tata Nano - Will it ever sell in vast numbers?

Cars are status symbol in india.I have seen people buy mercs,bmws and audis and then park it in their garage without making full use of it.Even people who dont have use of one car has got two nowadays,So who wants to be seen in a nano?For the price of it you can get a second hand alto or indica.Iam sure that nano is a big failure and it will soon fade into history.Tata better stop making cars and concentrate on trucks and buses .
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Old 27th June 2013, 12:28   #9
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Default re: Tata Nano - Will it ever sell in vast numbers?

I agree with Flatout on his assessment of the potential of Nano. The design is iconic and cute and I have a feeling that it would not easily go out of fashion or become boring.

I am sure the Indian buying public's tastes have been changing. When I was driving a Zen I always felt that it should have a little more power, better brakes. Even today the old jelly bean design (not the changed rear and front lamps) looks nice on the roads. But I thought I was in minority.

But today there is enough crowd clamouring for hot hatches.

I am sure a new breed of people will take to it as they keep improving the car from being very basic to more sophisticated.

In it's present avatar it is fine as a city car but even in the city you cannot drive it at 50/60 and take it in corners. I would love to own one if there was some more power and had some basic creature comforts and better handling. Others have given their wish list I agree with them as well. I also wish the front and rear wheels to be of the same size and interchangeable and with good looking alloys it would a fun ride.

I like the front bonnet design with that impish grin. And lines have a potential of a classic. I think it has more potential than what Tatas have exploited so far.
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Old 27th June 2013, 13:00   #10
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Default will it sell in vast numbers? => No

The Nano is a car which everyone appreciates but a few want to take home. Earlier this month we went to check out the Nano and absolutely fell in love with the car and especially what it offers at the given price. It even makes the Alto800 ridiculously over priced. So then what was the reason for us not picking the Nano over the Alto800??

Well the answer is very obvious. The car was primarily for my grandfather who has been a Maruti 800 loyalist since over 2 decades now. Even though the Maruti 800 is and was an entry level car in the market, the 'perception' was that the 800 is affordable, not cheap.

Where the brilliantly packaged Nano loses out is solely on public perception of being cheap (as others have pointed out) and not because of the need of more power or any more new features.

IMO Tata should now retire the Nano gracefully (like what Toyota did to the Qualis) rather than continue sale till the market disrespectfully pushes it out and simultaneously use the Nano platform and engineering to introduce a more upmarket product which replaces the Nano but does not look the same and is positioned and projected as a car that can rival cars a segment above the Alto800 but priced at par or below the Alto800 with a feature list that can probably put some B+ segment cars to shame. I believe that this new car with a different name and a good PR strategy can do everything the Nano was built to and more and eat into a fair share of the Maruti sales.

Based on the success of this new car the Nano may be re-introduced in the market years later and then this car could be lapped up just based on its iconic value, irrespective of the price then (Mini anyone??).
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Old 27th June 2013, 13:20   #11
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Default Re: will it sell in vast numbers? => No

Quote:
Originally Posted by S2!!! View Post
The Nano is a car which everyone appreciates but a few want to take home.
So right you are!

Quote:
Originally Posted by S2!!! View Post

Earlier this month we went to check out the Nano and absolutely fell in love with the car and especially what it offers at the given price. It even makes the Alto800 ridiculously over priced. So then what was the reason for us not picking the Nano over the Alto800??
How much does the Alto 800 & Nano prices come out to be? If I am not wrong, the Alto 800 is around 2.4-2.5 lacs, which is very close and slightly higher than the Nano. But with this price increase, there comes better & thicker seats, upholstery, a much better boot, a better, quieter and powerful engine and a much better ASC, both in terms of quality and availability. Hence, the extra amount you pay far outweighs the benefits you get from Nano.

Quote:
Originally Posted by S2!!! View Post
Well the answer is very obvious. The car was primarily for my grandfather who has been a Maruti 800 loyalist since over 2 decades now. Even though the Maruti 800 is and was an entry level car in the market, the 'perception' was that the 800 is affordable, not cheap.
Well that perception of the 800 and moreover of Maruti Suzuki is the major huddle for other manufacturers too, leave alone the Nano. Most of the MS cars sells only because they are a Maruti Suzuki (& the benefits associated with it) and nothing else!

Quote:
Originally Posted by S2!!! View Post
Where the brilliantly packaged Nano loses out is solely on public perception of being cheap (as others have pointed out) and not because of the need of more power or any more new features.

IMO Tata should now retire the Nano gracefully (like what Toyota did to the Qualis) rather than continue sale till the market disrespectfully pushes it out and simultaneously use the Nano platform and engineering to introduce a more upmarket product which replaces the Nano but does not look the same and is positioned and projected as a car that can rival cars a segment above the Alto800 but priced at par or below the Alto800 with a feature list that can probably put some B+ segment cars to shame. I believe that this new car with a different name and a good PR strategy can do everything the Nano was built to and more and eat into a fair share of the Maruti sales.

Based on the success of this new car the Nano may be re-introduced in the market years later and then this car could be lapped up just based on its iconic value, irrespective of the price then (Mini anyone??).
IMO, the problem currently lies with the Tata Motors as a whole and not just isolated to the Nano. Tata has to ramp up some new line up of cars in every segment, because none of the cars are desirable by the buyers (no offence meant to those who buy Tata cars). They must introduce completely new models with just 2 variants each (no confusion with variants like V2, Vista, refresh, D90 & what not) and bring all of them together in one go. Difficult but not impossible for a company of a stature as big as the Tatas.

Regards,
Saket

Last edited by saket77 : 27th June 2013 at 13:21.
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Old 27th June 2013, 14:17   #12
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Default Re: will it sell in vast numbers? => No

Quote:
Originally Posted by saket77 View Post
So right you are!



How much does the Alto 800 & Nano prices come out to be? If I am not wrong, the Alto 800 is around 2.4-2.5 lacs, which is very close and slightly higher than the Nano. But with this price increase, there comes better & thicker seats, upholstery, a much better boot, a better, quieter and powerful engine and a much better ASC, both in terms of quality and availability. Hence, the extra amount you pay far outweighs the benefits you get from Nano.



Well that perception of the 800 and moreover of Maruti Suzuki is the major huddle for other manufacturers too, leave alone the Nano. Most of the MS cars sells only because they are a Maruti Suzuki (& the benefits associated with it) and nothing else!



IMO, the problem currently lies with the Tata Motors as a whole and not just isolated to the Nano. Tata has to ramp up some new line up of cars in every segment, because none of the cars are desirable by the buyers (no offence meant to those who buy Tata cars). They must introduce completely new models with just 2 variants each (no confusion with variants like V2, Vista, refresh, D90 & what not) and bring all of them together in one go. Difficult but not impossible for a company of a stature as big as the Tatas.

Regards,
Saket
My thoughts exactly.

Tata should do a Europa facelift to nano 2014. It looks very upmarket.Few days back i was comparing the engines of nano to kawasaki 650r. 3 things stood out:
1) Nano engine is square, ninja is oversquare
2) Nano is SOHC,ninja DOHC
3) Nano has only 2 valves per cyl.,ninja has 4.

i think instead of developing entirely new 800cc engine they should have improved the current engine and added a tall 5th gear for highways.

Also would love if they launch a nano electric. Keep only 3 trims in 3 engine options:Petrol,CNG and electric.(mahindra e2o looks like a joke in front of nano europa!)
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Old 27th June 2013, 17:34   #13
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Default Re: Tata Nano - Will it ever sell in vast numbers?

My thoughts are:
  • The Nano is conceptually excellent. Marketing and even some of Ratan Tata's (subsequent) comments have let it down.
  • Incremental improvements will not do much good, customer perception on this car is lost. Even in those MTV marketing rallies for Nano in India's hinterlands what you hear is of people making remarks that their friends have asked them not to buy or consider this car because it is 'bad'. Too costly trying to change perceptions of reality in this case, better to make a clean cut.
  • In my opinion, Tata will need to rebrand, change looks of the car to create differentiation with the present (no more calling the differentiated model as a variant of 'Nano') and relaunch. Striving to compete with the Alto in both features and price would be good. And maybe they can still have a lower priced version called the Nano.
  • That said, the capacity buildup & volume projections have been overly optimistic for the short to medium term. My opinion is that many Indians do not want to replace their two wheelers - I for one prefer to take out my two wheeler for short trips and occasional long ones as compared to my cars as it is just more faster to reach the destination, very easy to find parking, provides gearless comfort, tackles bad roads much better, is more fuel efficient (unless of course when it is raining).
  • In my opinion, for the current version of the Nano, fuel efficiency, power of the car, etc. are all bearable.
    Space is very good at the front and in the middle. Missing features as compared to 'standard' cars like openable rear hatch with boot space are still a negatives, but I believe are getting corrected with internal improvements in the 2013 model as well the 2014 diesel model. To me the biggest downer of all is to do with the handling/ride and how the car holds up - atleast the experience with the older Nanos which are still going around today - a colleague told me just yesterday that he felt better and more comfortable travelling in an Autorickshaw than being driven in a Nano, he finds the ride/handling in the Nano's rear seat that much uncomfortable. This obviously needs to get corrected on priority on any upgraded model.
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Old 27th June 2013, 18:00   #14
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Default Re: Tata Nano - Will it ever sell in vast numbers?

Pardon me but I think Tata should spin of Nano as a different entity and sell it as a company.

Leave aside emotions but it ain't working out, and Tata which has successfully bought and sold companies in past should do the same with Nano.

Mr Karl Slym has enough on his plate (not one single product is matching market expectation) and one less issue is better.

Potential buyers for Nano as a company any global brand with technology and looking for Numbers.

A VW Nano or FIAT Nano is more promising than a TATA Nano.
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Old 27th June 2013, 18:17   #15
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Default Re: Tata Nano - Will it ever sell in vast numbers?

@ritz3645, I think no less than Ratan Tata had a similar view, shortly after the car was launched.

Admittedly, licensing is different from selling.

Source : http://articles.economictimes.indiat...ble-family-car

Tata Motors open to global licensing of 'Nano' production


PTI Mar 4, 2008, 10.00pm IST
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