January 11, 2008 If you haven’t heard of India’s Tata Motor Company, rest assured you’ll certainly be hearing a lot more about it very soon. Tata is about to give the world’s automotive manufacturers a landmark lesson in production efficiency with the release of a 100,000 rupee car – that’s US$2500, brand spanking new. Unveiled last night, the Tata ‘NANO’, “the People’s Car” as it is rightfully dubbed, will bring motoring within the reach of millions when it is launched in India later in 2008. Like the four-minute-mile, now we’re aware that it can be done, we suspect that the auto industry is in for another shake-up thanks to the flow-on effects precipitated by this long-time innovative Indian company. Not yet impressed? Then try this for size – Tata Group has been named by Ford as the preferred buyer for its two up-for-sale brands, Jaguar and Land Rover.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony at the 9th Auto Expo in New Delhi, Mr. Ratan N. Tata, chairman of the company that carries his name, said, “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 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.”
The People’s Car, designed with a family in mind, has a roomy passenger compartment with generous leg space and head room. It can comfortably seat four persons. Four doors with high seating position make ingress and egress easy.
Yet with a length of 3.1 metres, width of 1.5 metres and height of 1.6 metres, with adequate ground clearance, it can effortlessly manoeuvre on busy roads in cities as well as in rural areas. Its mono-volume design, with wheels at the corners and the powertrain at the rear, enables it to uniquely combine both space and manoeuvrability, which will set a new benchmark among small cars.
When launched, the car will be available in both standard and deluxe versions. Both versions will offer a wide range of body colors, and other accessories so that the car can be customized to an individual’s preferences.
The People’s Car has a rear-wheel drive, all-aluminum, two-cylinder, 623 cc, 33 PS, multi point fuel injection petrol engine. This is the first time that a two-cylinder gasoline engine is being used in a car with single balancer shaft. The lean design strategy has helped minimize weight, which helps maximize performance per unit of energy consumed and delivers high fuel efficiency. Performance is controlled by a specially designed electronic engine management system.
The People’s Car’s safety performance exceeds current regulatory requirements. 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. Tubeless tires further enhance safety.
The People’s Car’s tailpipe emission performance exceeds regulatory requirements. In terms of overall pollutants, it has a lower pollution level than many of the two-wheelers being manufactured in India today. The high fuel efficiency also ensures that the car has low carbon dioxide emissions, thereby providing the twin benefits of an affordable transportation solution with a low carbon footprint.
As for the company’s takeover of luxury car brands Land Rover and Jaguar, Tata said: “A lot of people have been making an issue of whether a car manufacturer that’s in the low end can also integrate with an upper-end luxury car enterprise… that assumes one is going to integrate the enterprise.”
He says the lack of overlap between Jaguar and Land Rover and Tata’s current low-cost vehicle line-up would be an advantage.
Like we said, watch this space.