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First look: The cheapest car in the world

Safety measures: Tata Nano boasts seat belts and tubeless tyres.

Tata launches its controversial back-to-basics Nano ‘people’s car’ in India

11 Jan 2008

INDIAN carmaker Tata Motors has launched the cheapest car in the world – the Tata Nano ‘people’s car’, which will sell for the equivalent of $2850.

Referred to as the ‘1 lakh’ car because it is priced at 100,000 rupees in India, the rear-engined Nano was launched at the New Delhi motor show last night by Tata chairman Ratan Tata.

However, the car is already creating controversy in the West, with critics saying it will add millions of sub-standard cars to India’s already clogged roads, adding to the country’s mounting air and noise pollution problems.

Nobel Peace Prize winner and United Nations climate scientist Rajendra Pachauri has been quoted as saying he is “having nightmares” about the car.

Safety has also been raised as a concern.

Although Tata argues that the Nano exceeds regulations, among its claimed safety items are a sheet-metal body, crumple zones, seat belts, strong seats and tubeless tyres.

Defenders of the car point out that the Nano will replace even more dangerous forms of transport such as motor scooters and three-wheelers, and that it is essential for India’s economic and social development.

47 center imageDeveloped locally by Tata Motors – which is in negotiations to buy Jaguar and Land Rover – the four-seat Nano is 3.1m long, 1.5m wide and 1.6m high.

It is powered by an all-aluminium 623cc two-cylinder petrol engine with multi-point fuel injection and a single balance shaft. The Tata-built engine, which sits under the back seat, develops just 25kW of power and drives the rear wheels through a continuously variable transmission.

Tata claims a fuel consumption figure of 5.0L/100km.

A Deluxe model (the yellow car pictured above) was also revealed, which features air-conditioning and leather upholstery, while the company chairman said that future developments would include more powerful engines, diesel engine and an automatic transmission.

Mr Tata said the new car brings the comfort and safety of a car within the reach of thousands of families in one of the world’s most populous countries for the first time.

“I observed families riding on two-wheelers – the father driving the scooter, his young kid standing in front of him, his wife seated behind him holding a little baby,” said Mr Tata. “It led me to wonder whether one could conceive of a safe, affordable, all-weather form of transport for such a family.

“Tata Motors’ engineers and designers gave their all for about four years to realise this goal. Today, we indeed have a People’s Car, which is affordable and yet built to meet safety requirements and emission norms, to be fuel efficient and low on emissions.

“We are happy to present the People’s Car to India and we hope it brings the joy, pride and utility of owning a car to many families who need personal mobility.” “We initially conceived this as a low-end ‘rural car’, probably without doors or windows and with plastic curtains that rolled down … but as the development cycle progressed we realised that we could – and needed to – do a whole lot better. And so we slowly gravitated towards a car like everyone expects a car to be.

“When we were planning facilities for the car and working out a business plan, the business plan shown to me was looking at a figure of 200,000. I said 200,000 cars is crazy. If we can do this we should be looking at a million cars a year, and if we can’t do a million then we shouldn’t be doing this kind of car at all.”

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