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If you pursue something, you will certainly get there. Nothing is impossible,” said Ratan Tata unveiling the much-awaited Tata Nano at a glittering ceremony in Mumbai. The city’s iconic Marine Drive and its gentle breeze formed the perfect backdrop for the occasion and there was not a soul who was not moved by the significance of the event.

The event was not just about what Tata Motors had achieved by offering a car at Rs 1 lakh (ex-factory) but was more a statement on what India had achieved. In Mr Tata’s words, his company had succeeded in giving the country an affordable car. “In some way, this is dedicated to the youth of India,” he said to a tumultuous applause. Appropriately, there were three Nanos that kept him company on stage.
If the appreciation from the audience was unabated, it was most palpable when the car’s price tag was announced. “We made a promise a couple of months ago and I am glad to say that we have kept that promise today,” said Mr Tata. At Rs 1 lakh for the base model, the Indian middle class’ dream of owning a four-wheeler had come true.

For Tata Motors, it had been an arduous journey for six years, with naysayers not giving the company too much of a chance to offer the consumer a car at a price as cheap as that. Mr Tata modestly said this product would “rewrite the evolution of transport”.

The audience comprised not just the head honchos from Bombay House, the Tatas’ headquarters, but dealers and suppliers were there as well. Some of the best names from advertising and the world of finance were also present.

Indian Hotels’ MD Raymond Bickson spoke fondly of how the Nano reminded him of his Fiat. “That was my first car and I used to drive it around as a student.

To my mind, the Nano is the result of the vision of the chairman who saw it through so many challenges.” There was probably a sense of deja vu for those who had seen the Maruti hit the Indian roads in the early ’80s. The Maruti 800 at that stage, according to Naina Lal Kidwai of HSBC, succeeded in transforming demand for cars in India.


rom drawing board to Singur and to Sanand before hitting the showrooms, it has been quite a journey for Tata Motors’ Nano, the world’s cheapest car. Here’s how the Rs one lakh car was born.

March 2003 : Ratan Tata discloses plans to launch the world’s cheapest car at Rs 1 lakh at Geneva Motor Show.

May 2006: Tata Motors announces setting up Nano manufacturing unit at Singur in West Bengal with initial investment of Rs 1000 crore spread over 700 acres; scaled up to 1,000 acres with total investment of Rs 1,500 crore.

Oct 2006 : Trinamool Congress opposes Tata Motors’ plans to set up factory at Singur, calls 12-hour state-wide bandh alleging forcible acquisition of farmers’ land.

Dec 2006: Violence mars Singur, five hurt in rubber- bullet firing. Mamata Banerjee goes on indefinite hunger strike, which was called off after 25 days following appeals from the Prime Minister and the President.

Jan 2007: Land puja offered at Singur car project site

Feb 2007: Police-mob clash at Singur.

Mar 2007: WBIDC signs a 90-year agreement with Tata Motors for Nano plant; farmer commits suicide; mob attacks proposed site; bomb explosion damages fencing

May 2007: Peace talks between state government and Trinamool Congress fail; one more farmer commits suicide

June 2007: CPI(M) patriarch Jyoti Basu echoes Mamata Banerjee’s demand that only 600 acres is required for the Singur project instead of 1,000 acres, but state government rules out returning Singur project land to farmers

Nov 2007 : Central forces deployed at Singur after fresh protests

Jan 2008: Ratan Tata unveils Nano at Auto Expo in Delhi; Calcutta High Court orders Singur land acquisition legal

Mar 2008: Nano showcased at Geneva Motor Show

May 2008 : Supreme Court refuses to stay Nano roll-out from Singur

June 2008: Singur protesters break factory gate

Aug 2008: Talks between West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Mamata Banerjee, who demanded return of 400 acres to farmers, fail. Subsequently, Ratan Tata threatens to exit from Singur. It was followed by Trinamool Congress’ indefinite dharna. Factory workers stay away from work after assault.

Sep 2008: WB Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi intervenes. Agreement signed between state government and Trinamool Congress but it is shortlived. Mamata Banerjee holds rally demanding return of 300 acres of land. Security guards at Singur factory attacked.

Oct 2008: Ratan Tata formally announces pulling out of Nano plant from Singur and days later declares Sanand at Gujarat as the new manufacturing location for Nano at an investment of Rs 2,000 crore

Feb 2009: Tata Motors announces launch date of Nano to be March 23.

Mar 2009: Ratan Tata unveils European version of Nano with added features and complying with Euro V emission norms at the Geneva Motor Show; Nano makes commercial debut.


Tata’s small car Nano may not be able to enter Europe due to stringent safety and emission norms, leading German luxury carmaker Audi said joining the list of auto players, who are sceptical about the prospects of the world’s cheapest car.

Nano has always elicited sharp reactions from rival carmakers, including Maruti Suzuki, about its compatibility with safety norms, which Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata has been challenging.

“Entering (by any model) the US and European market is very tough due to very stringent security and consumption regulations. Many Chinese carmaker had earlier tried to enter Europe, but could not as they faced problems,” Audi AG Member of the Board (Finance and Organisation) Axel Strotbek said here.

Asked if Nano could also face such difficulties in entering into Europe, he said: “Yes … I don’t think it will come here.”

Axel said that safety, fuel efficiency and emission norms are very important for the European customers, “which I am very apprehensive of getting in this price (Nano’s price)”.


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Tata Motors is working on a micro-hybrid version for the Nano that will increase the fuel efficiency of the world’s cheapest car further, while cutting down its emissions . The company is in discussions with Bosch, the world’s biggest component supplier, for sourcing the technology that is already being used by Mahindra in India and others abroad, industry sources said.

“We are looking at the start/stop technology as part of different options and technologies that would help reduce emissions and boost fuel efficiency ,” a spokesperson for Tata Motors confirmed. The start/stop system, developed by Bosch, has the potential to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by around 8% in urban traffic.

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Maruti Suzuki could slash the price of its largest-selling model, Alto, as it looks to take on the Nano, the world’s cheapest car being rolled out by rival Tata Motors
with a price tag of Rs 1 lakh later this month, said an executive familiar with the car market leader’s plans.

The executive, who asked not to be named, said the Alto, whose entry model costs Rs 2.3 lakh, will not be priced as low as the Nano, but will see “a significant mark-down”.

However, any cut in Alto prices will not be immediate, the executive said, adding that Maruti will wait to launch a full-frontal battle only after Nano volumes gain critical mass. This can happen only in 2010, when the Nano mother plant at Sanand in Gujarat goes on stream. Until then, Tata Motors is likely to produce only 3,000-5,000 units of the Nano every month from its plant at Pantnagar in Uttarakhand.

A Maruti spokesman did not confirm or deny the plan, only saying, “We don’t comment on our product plans.”

It’s still unclear whether Maruti will turn price aggressive with its current Alto model, or a new, souped-up version will be introduced so that the existing variant can be pushed down the price ladder to take on the Nano.

The decision to pit its best-selling model against the Nano is a major strategy shift for Maruti. The market leader was expected to cut prices of the M800 to counter the Nano. But according to people with knowledge of the situation, Maruti has decided that it’s too expensive to upgrade the M800 to meet the Euro 4 emission norms.

In 2010, 11 cities in India will embrace Euro 4, and the M800 will be phased out from these markets. As the rest of the country moves to the new emission standard, the M800 will slowly be phased out countrywide. The M800’s Euro 4 non-compliance is the reason why Maruti has to pit its best-selling model against the Nano, slated to be launched on March 23.

India’s largest-selling model, the Alto standard, is priced at Rs 2.3 lakh. It has an 800cc engine, no AC and no power steering. The Nano standard version has a 624cc engine, but is expected to be priced Rs 1.2 lakh lower. Maruti sells around 2 lakh units of the Alto a year on an average. Alto sales recently crossed 1 million units.

Maruti’s price aggression in the face of competition isn’t new. When the Tata Indica was rolled out 10 years ago, Maruti reacted by cutting the price of its then best-seller, the M800, by Rs 25,000 to take on the Rs 2.95-lakh Tata car. Post-rebate, the M800 was priced around Rs 1.8 lakh, substantially cheaper than the Indica.

Maruti has always maintained that it will not develop a Rs 1-lakh car. Company chairman O Suzuki has gone on record saying the Rs 1-lakh car is not a segment Maruti would want to be in.

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Close to the launch of Nano, jittery used car dealers have slashed prices by more than 25-35% in recent weeks. Industry officials say dealers are trying to move prices closer to the Rs 1 lakh-mark to be competitive with Nano.

Prices of mid-sized cars are down by over 25% and by 20% for smaller cars. Dealers are offering the four-to-five-year-old Ford Ikon, Maruti Esteem, Opel Corsa or Fiat Sienna for around Rs 1 lakh.

“When the Nano gets launched, the A and B segment (small) cars will see a further correction. Currently, the price erosion is lesser in the A and B segment used cars,” said Vinay Sanghi, chief (new business development for the after-market sector), Mahindra First Choice Wheels.

In recent months, car manufactures have dropped prices of new cars and also started offering discounts to clear inventories. This is having a direct bearing on used car prices, said a few used car dealers ET spoke to. Dealers feel customers are now looking at used cars more closely.


Bookings for the Rs 1 lakh Nano will begin by February end. The booking amount for the world’s cheapest car will be around Rs 70,000.But, even after paying 70% of the car’s total cost, the wait could be quite long.

Sources familiar with development said that all dealers of Tata Motors and branches of the State Bank of India (SBI) will accept bookings simultaneously across the country in the next three weeks. SBI will initially engaged 100 branches and take the number eventually to 1,000.

Tata Motors and SBI have entered into an exclusive arrangement for the Nano car. SBI will not only act as sole lender to buyers but also offer its branches for bookings.

As Tata Motors is eyeing initial bookings of over one lakh cars, the company hopes to collect around Rs 700 crore in just a few weeks. Allotment will be made through a draw and, going by projections even during this recession, those at the top of the draw would have the choice of becoming proud owners of the first Nanos, or getting a premium in the black market.

Nano would be launched in March 2009 with cars rolling out from the Pantnagar plant in Uttranchal. This plant can produce only 3,000 cars per month — just a fraction of the demand.

Things will ease only after the cars roll out of Sanand plant near Ahmedabad which will have an initial capacity of producing 2,50,000 cars per annum. But the Gujarat plant will take at least one year to start production.

Nano’s launch had been scheduled for 2008 but plans got derailed when Tatas were forced out of Singur in West Bengal.


August 2020

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