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Tata Motors Unveils the “People’s Car”: the Nano

Ratan Tata, Chairman of Tata Motors, introduces the Nano.

Tata Motors unveiled the long-anticipated Tata Nano—the low-priced Rs 1-Lakh (US$2,550) “People’s Car”—that is intended to expand greatly the market for automobiles in India. The Nano will be launched in India later in 2008.

The Nano has a rear-wheel drive, all-aluminium, two-cylinder, 623cc, 24 kW (33 hp), multi-point fuel injection gasoline engine coupled with a CVT or 5-speed manual transmission. This is the first time that a two-cylinder gasoline engine is being used in a car with a single balancer shaft, according to Tata. The lean design strategy helped minimize weight. Fuel consumption is projected to be 5 L/100m (47 mpg US).

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. 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 realize 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.

—Ratan Tata, Chairman Tata Motors

The Nano has a length of 3.1 meters, width of 1.5 meters and height of 1.6 meters. Its mono-volume design, with wheels at the corners and the powertrain at the rear, enables it to combine both space and maneuverability.

With an all sheet-metal body, it has a strong passenger compartment, with safety features such as crumple zones, intrusion-resistant doors, seat belts, strong seats and anchorages, and the rear tailgate glass bonded to the body. The vehicle is designed to pass international side offset and side crash tests.

The vehicle is designed to met Euro 4 norms. In response to criticism that the Nano will add to India’s pollution problem by expanding the number of cars on the road, Tata says that the Nano will pollute less than a two-wheeler it might replace.

Tata is offering a standard and luxury version of the Nano at launch, and will expand on the platform.

Down the line, as we widen our range, we will have dressed-up versions with higher-powered engines, diesel engines, automatics and the like. We have a whole bunch of innovations coming along on this platform. What we now have is a car that is truly low-cost which has, approximately, the same performance as a Maruti 800 in terms of acceleration, top speed, etc.

—Ratan Tata


daniel billinton

I am generally impressed by this vehicle as it significantly undercuts other manufacturere efforts whilst still looking reasonably attractive as a car.

obviously it isn't going to be the last word in luxury - especially not on indian roads, but that isn't really the point - it is targeted at current indian scooter users who want more comofrt and safety than a motorcycle.

The specification is very basic but perhaps they could allow a modular approach allowing people to add air cond, radio, (and the other windscreen wiper!) as and when funds allow ?

also the wheels seem too small. Great to achieve a large cabin in a car with a small footprint, but poor in terms of road comfort and cornering and handling.

i'm surprised that such a small basic car doesn't achieve more than the 50mpg claimed. perhaps the engine, despite being fuel injected is rather basic by 'western' standards.

At first tata said that the Nano woudln't comply with European emissions or crash protection standards but they they plan to export to europe - either it can comply or they will produce an improved version that can - if they do it will really be a shock to the european manufacturers who's most basic car costs around 3 or 4 times as much.


Jim G.

He describes this four (?) seater car as the solution to the problem of a family of four shoehorned onto a two-seater scooter. Sounds good. Meanwhile, in the US, highways get blocked up with massive cars, each housing a single person, taking up a wide space on the road and using all sorts of extra fuel to haul all that steel against the wind, not just themselves.

I do wonder if, given this serious growth push by Tata, India can avoid the American model of oil dependent sprawling suburbs. I suppose there are some contrary factors: rural areas that are already densely populated and oil promising to be less available in the future. But as folks grow wealthier, will middle class husband, wife and son want to do like Americans do and each drive their own car to a different place at a different time? We'll see.


For a while we have had disposable cameras and disposable diapers, now introducing the disposable car. The new TATA Nano!!!!!!!

Tired of getting rained on, bugs in you teeth or the sun burning your scalp. Well it's time to make a CHANGE, get OFF that scooter and INTO the new TATA Nano!!!!

Think a car is too expensive or maybe JUST out of your price range. Not this bueaty, for a mere 2,500 you could be the talk of your hovel and the dryest guy at work. The new TATA Nano!!!!

Warning: Avoid other objects at all times. Not responsible for fatalities.


Unfortunately India does seem to follow a poor man's version of american model. Environmentally It would be better to have a good public transportation system. But since the government is in no hurry to improve that, this will be good alternative for middle class families.


Soooooo....It's finally happened! The Lilliputians have started making cars!

Amazing price point for this vehicle, but for American roads, more beef would be required as to not disintegrate during a collision.


Good for them !!!

Indians deserve to have mobile independence just as much as any American or European does.

It may not be up to our standards, but so what.
We won't be the ones driving it.

Enjoy your new car Apoo, enjoy !!!!

May the seven arms of Vishnu hug and embrase your new found freedom !!!!

Enjoy !!!

Roger Pham

This is the Zen of green automotive: Ingenuity in the utmost simplicity. Achieving Prius' level of fuel efficiency with 1/10th of the cost and 1/5th of the complexity! The Nirvana of eco-conscious automotive (and cost-effective). The West: take note!

Indeed, it has been my contention here all along that great fuel efficiency can simply be achieved by downsizing the engine, the drive train, and, why not, the whole damn thing (car), without any expensive technology. A little slower acceleration won't hurt anyone, especially if everyone drives similarly powered vehicles. Why use a super-duper V-8 on a 5,000-lb vehicle with all kinds of tricks such as DI, VVT, cylinder deactivation blah blah blah...when you can make do with 2 cylinders engine on a 1500-lb vehicle?
What? you need bigger hauling capacity once in a blue moon? Just join a car-sharing club wherein you can automatedly rent any kinds of vehicles for almost every occasions (hot dates, fast-and-furious down-town drag racing, camping trips, off-road safari, U-haul truck etc...)

Now then, fine tune the engine a bit more to get ~60-70 mpg and make it run on compressed and adsorbed methane in light-weight fuel tank (bio and synthetic methane) to reduce petroleum depedency.

Tom Street

We don't need any more cars in the world, even at 40 miles per gallon. Lots of luck being actually being able to actually driving these cars anywhere in congested India.


Hopefully, peak oil will off this car.

India needs ultra-high rise megacities that reduce the need for transport, and nuclear and renewables powered mass transit.

But Indians will decide for themselves what to do with their future. We can only tell them, as 'friends', that putting millions of more cars on the planet's roads, is not a smart bet.


'the lilliputians have started making cars'


Good play Sir.


The Enviromentals wakos (comunists) are going crazy about this.


Thanks Joseph. Like Drew Carey on "Who's Line is it Anyway?" would say... "nice job and 100 million points to you for that skit!" Can we accumulate points on GCC? Anyone?

Healthy Breeze

I'm guessing this car weighs 1250 pounds. With 33 hp that's less hp/pound than an old VW bug. I'm totally fine with low horse power, but why couldn't they get 80-100 mpg if they were going so light and underpowered? It's not a Loremo, but it's not far from it, really.


I saw various references to fuel economy (US) - both at Wall Street Journal and here. There should not be a US number quoted because this vehicle is not intended for US markets nor will it pass crash, emissions, safety or any other tests here, and I can almost bet the fuel economy was not tested on US test schedule (wouldn't make sense). 5L/100km was suddenly quoted at 50mpg as well - even by Ratan Tata - which is arithmetically wrong. It is 45.6 miles/ US gallon. May be they were using imperial gallons.

Of course, all that is not the point of this car in the first place. The point is that it is poised to expand the personal transportation to millions who have never been able to afford a car yet. If it's $2500 new, imagine the used car price for this one! So, it's going to permeate *down* the income levels, while other Tata products (and some higher-end versions of Nano) can fill in the other side of the price-value continuum.

And more than anything else, it's the thinking that went into making the trade-offs that are necessary to get the right balance of cost, performance, fuel economy, safety and saleability / marketability, that is the most important. Once you have the process down, every time you change the relative importance of these parameters, you get a new vehicle, but for emerging markets!!


Think of this as a Yugo with 40% less durability, reliability and safety, WOW, I scarred myself. The secondary market will be the recycling piles. If these cars last more than 3 years or 30K miles, it will be a miracle.


Now the emerging Asian and African middle class can realistically aspire to automobile ownership. Will this increase the demand for gasoline worldwide? How will that affect my SUV-driving friends (getting 14 mpg) who are patiently waiting for fuel prices to come down? :-o


Jonas: "India needs ultra-high rise megacities that reduce the need for transport, and nuclear and renewables powered mass transit."

And we're just the ones to say so.

Rafael Seidl

The snag is that traffic in many Indian cities are already severely gridlocked. The trend will worsen as peasants move from the land into cities in search of higher earnings, a typical migration pattern of countries in transition from (essentially) subsistence agriculture to an industrial economy. Transporting your family of four or five in a four-wheeled car rather than a two-wheeled scooter is indeed a lot safer. Unfortunately, it also cuts road capacity by a factor 2-3, so Indians will soon be going nowhere fast.

At least the Nano is lightweight and has a small engine. A stop-start system to eliminate idling losses and emissions ought to be high on the list of options Tata should make available.

Even so, India will soon need to reserve lanes in its inner cities for electric bicycles and high occupancy vehicles (3 or more) just to keep traffic moving at all. Unfortunately, the country has a poor reputation for enforcing its traffic laws, i.e. if push comes to shove it's more about who you know than what actually happened. The driving test used to be a joke, perhaps that's been tightened up by now. Otherwise, might pretty much makes right, which bodes ill for the future of anything with less than four wheels. Here's couple of recent clips of actual traffic in Hyderabad (not nearly as bad as e.g. Mumbai):

Sorry, wrong URL on the second video:

Max Reid

Happy New Year folks

There is a joke like this
"Since there is no gravity in SPACE and PENS cannot write as the ink does not flow, Americans spent $ 5 million on research to create a PENS that writes in SPACE.

And Russians wrote with PENCIL"

Same way, GM has invested billions to create 2-Mode Hybrid only to apply on vehicles with 6 liter engine and costing $50,000 which is outside the reach of many.

Tata is much smaller company by standards of GM, Toyota, Volkswagen, yet they were smart enough to create a vehicle with 623 cc 2-cylinder engine that seats 4 which is good enough for many Indian families who have only 1 or 2 kids.

Also Indians are not going to commute with the car, since the parking charges are exorbitantly high. They may just use it for weekend shopping or festivals & functions. Yes, if they drive 30,000 km (not miles) in 10 years, thats enough.

As for the transport problem, they have to use the combination of MRT (Mass Rail Transit), LRT (Light Rail Transit) and BRT (Bus Rapid Transit)

Indians may be Lilliputian by the standards of 250 lb Americans, but also note that those obese Americans have a huge health bill as they age.

5 years ago, when Americans drove Big SUV's with V8 engine, and they mocked at those who had Crossovers

In 2007, the sales of
Pickups - down by 5 %
SUV's - down by 10 %
Minivans - down by 15 %
while CUV's went up by more 15 %
Hybrids went up by 38 %.

Wake up guys, $3 gas and $100 oil has arrived, time for Americans to move to CUV's, Hybrids, Natgas, Carpooling, etc instead of dictating others.


Are they going to make a luxury version? If so, can I suggest that they call it the Bodacious. Because then you could buy two and you'd have yourself a pair of Bodacious Tatas.

fred schumacher

Peak Oil, Global Warming, and the Population Explosion are three interconnected phenomena, and its human population that is the driver of the first two.

Human population has survived wars, famine and plague and always bounced back. The one factor that appears to permanently decrease the population growth rate is prosperity ( a relative, not absolute, phenomenon). When you have more wealth to invest in your children, you have fewer of them.

India has a very good public intercity and intracity transportation system. Certainly much better than the U.S. India's megacities are filling up because of rural poverty. Ratan Tata has said that this car was specifically designed with rural, not urban, transportation in mind.

Education, transportation and communication, again, three interconnected phenomena, are essential to the development of prosperity. Instead of making war against the Taliban, we should pave 50,000 miles of highway in Afghanistan and donate 5 million Tata Nanos to the people. It would be cheaper and more effective than what we are doing now. They could then start growing fuel instead of poppies.

It's poverty that creates warlords and its poverty that results in high population growth rates.

Tata is really on to something that I think most of us are missing. It's similar to the concept of the Grameen Bank. Give the poor the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty. Make those tools affordable to them.

And we in the west have something to learn. That parsimony can be a more effective problem solving tool than complexity. A simple solution like the Nano accomplishes what high tech and vaporware can only dream of.

Oh, and the small tires? The original Austin Mini-Cooper owned the Monte Carlo Auto Rally for years, and it did it on 10 inch tires.



I would say you missed the mark on interpreting the earlier "lilliputians" comment.

Tata was smart as they saw the opportunity to address a new market segment rather than wrestle with giants over existing markets. The vehicle itself isn't anything special...the marketing + price point are.

BTW - you really shouldn't spread such silly rumors or I'll have to accuse you of being a chain e-mailing spammer:

Nasa paid all of $2.95 per pen for 400 pens and not a penny of NRE. They spent some Engineering time testing the pens for safety. Before the pens, Russians AND NASA used everyone uses pens.

I'll let your one off the wall comment speak for the rest of your post.

Harvey D

Viva Tata...Good for India.

The Nano PHEV version will be out soon followed by the Electric Nano a few months latter. It's going to be a major burst.

Wonder how long it will take China to catch up.

Unfortunately, the Nano will NOT be exported to USA or Canada. How can you fit four 350-pounders into a Nano car? F-250's, Hummers', Dodge RAM, and other 3 tonnes monsters will be around for a while in USA and Canada. It is a plain given neccessity for almost 40% of our population.

What will happen when our 350-pounders becomce 400+ pounders? Super Hummers???.


Oh I love Tata motors so much. Tata Motors is the same company that is coming out with the Compressed Air Car (i.e CityCAT, and MiniCAT)...unfortunately the CAT won't be $2,500...but hey $10,000 isn't bad for a Zero Emission Vehicle :)

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