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An undying preoccupation

  • Will someone please relate the Nano story to Tun Mahathir the next time he mentions the new national car project?

Sin Chew Daily

I couldn't help but think of India's Tata Nano when Mahathir said he wanted to create a brand new third national car.

Tata Nano was an ambitious project when it was first launched ten years ago. It was meant to prove to the world that Indians were able to produce their own cars.

Tata actually had a very comprehensive business plan in mind, one that was built around the country's enormous, fast expanding market in excess of one billion people whose demand for automobiles was rising by the day and who generally lacked the financial ability to buy overpriced foreign cars.

Nano was going to sell like hot cake if the price was reasonable and within the affordability of ordinary Indians.

With only a two-cylinder engine of 624 cc, Nano could seat four to five people.

The car was tiny, but the selling price was dirt cheap, costing only 100,000 rupees or approximately RM6,000 when it was first launched in 2008.

Some 250.000 units of this "cheapest car in the world" were estimated to be sold during the first year, and the number was expected to surge to a million later before the car made a splash in the global market to eventually become the world's best-selling model, especially in developing countries.

The idea looked impeccably perfect, and Nano was about to catapult the next wave of automobile industrial revolution to take every Indian household in Tata's auto world.

Unfortunately this plan didn't work.

The exterior was not too bad, but to save cost, the car had no air-conditioner; it only had one side mirror, a single wiper blade, three screws for each wheel.

Nano's safety came into question after several cars caught fire. This was followed by rising selling prices as a result of escalating production cost.

The higher the market expectations, the more disappointed consumers would get.

The car's first year sale was a pathetic 30,000 units, far from the 250,000-unit projection.

As for export market, Tata claimed that Nano had a 4-star safety rating in collision tests. The car didn't manage to get a single star when it was sent to Germany for testing!

Sure enough no foreign importers were adventurous enough to bring Nano into their countries.

Nano's selling price soared to 220,000 rupees (RM13,000) last year (now with the additional feature of air-conditioning), but only 7,000 vehicles were sold throughout the year.

Failing to see a brighter prospect for the car, Tata announced last week that Nano production would be halted, officially taking the 100% Indian car breed into history,

Despite the fact it was cheap, Nano was in no way comparable to imported models in safety, quality make, performance, features, etc.

Although the consumption power of most Indians is relatively low, they would rather wait up for additional one year or two to get a more reliable vehicle. They would even prefer a used foreign car than a brand new Nano.

Anyway, no one wants to be seen as a poor man for driving a Nano.

Will someone please relate the Nano story to Tun Mahathir the next time he mentions the new national car project?



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