When the Indian conglomerate Tata announced the Nano in 2008, it promised an automotive revolution equivalent to the Model T. The $2,200 Nano would be priced at half the cost of its competition, and single-handedly make four-wheeled transportation ubiquitous in India. Well, that was the plan, anyway.

ForeignPolicy.com is reporting that some three years later the Nano hasn't even begun to live up to its billing. While Tata projected monthly sales of 20,000-25,000 cars, in August the factory shipped a mere 1,200. Despite an annual production capacity of 250,000 Nanos, the company has only managed to sell about 129,000 to date.

While new product failures are a dime a dozen in the auto industry, the homegrown Nano seemed like such a slam dunk, its failure is shocking. Yet FP says the Nano's biggest problem should have been easy to see: Nobody, not even those in developing countries, wants a car whose primary attribute is that it is cheap.

Nano sales have also been hurt by problems with Tata's dealer network and safety concerns after reports of cars catching on fire. Tata told FP that it is addressing these issues, and a new advertising campaign for the car is airing on national television. A Tata spokesman also noted that over 90 percent of Nano owners have reported being satisfied with their cars.

So is the Nano a failure? Certainly it's not the success that many predicted, but revolutions aren't usually as neat and tidy as Steve Jobs liked to make them. And even if all that talk about Tata exporting the cars to the U.S. is looking like utter nonsense today, we found things to like about the Nano when we drove one last year. We're willing to concede that the final chapter on Tata's people's car has yet to be written.


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  • 80 Comments
      hevace
      • 3 Years Ago
      That lead photo makes me think that, despite your attempts at journalistic objectivity in the text, you guys really think it's a cheap, flaming death trap.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @hevace
        [blocked]
      rmkensington
      • 3 Years Ago
      A decent used car is its greatest competition
      Mark Lathom
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm getting two of them... "Who wants to check out my new Tatas?!?!"
      Myself
      • 3 Years Ago
      Get out, it's a blazing success!
      Joey
      • 3 Years Ago
      Same thing here. Rush has always said people buy want they want and they want what they buy. Understand?
      ksal11
      • 3 Years Ago
      The VW bug and transporter van(aka flower child hippy van) were also prone to catching on fire. Ive witnessed a number of them burning up after the fuel lines leak and then ignite on the aircooled engines. Ive emptied a number of fire extinguishers in vain.
        carlito310
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ksal11
        That's because the hippy's that bought them and drove them were probably smoking weed in them and that contributed to all the fires!
      Guillaume Séguin
      • 3 Years Ago
      And in the meantime, Dacia's low cost cars are a big success in richer western european markets ...
      switzarch
      • 3 Years Ago
      Opps, Is this India's answer to the Pinto?
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        • 3 Years Ago
        [blocked]
        tgsid
        • 3 Years Ago
        If Indian anything is a failure, than the new jaguar xj and every new land rover must be a failure, since Tata owns jaguar and land rover.
        cros9209
        • 3 Years Ago
        I'll put a dot on that ! Even their teachers stink !!!
      desertlady83
      • 3 Years Ago
      Gees, you were taking your life in your own hands even getting into one of those things in India at that. My god can u imagine getting on one of out busy freeways here in Calif. in one of those kiddy cars.
        navalphoto
        • 3 Years Ago
        @desertlady83
        Americans need to get with it in reguards to size and weight of autos. Smaller is comming weather we like it or not.
          sirjaysmith
          • 3 Years Ago
          @navalphoto
          So you're a psychic now? Something tells me micro cars won't be taking off anytime soon "weather" we like it or not. You drive 600 miles in a micro car, and see how you like it. Twitchy steering, incessant road noise, rough, choppy ride, 0 storage space and no power, boy that sounds like a real winner here in the land of massive spaces.
          DrEvil
          • 3 Years Ago
          @navalphoto
          NavalPhoto: What you said does not represent the reality. Micro cars have been on sale in the US for many years. The truth is they really weren't that good. Didn't hold up well to typical american motoring, and some were downright scary to get into. Look up the following cars: Honda N600 - early 70s Fiat X/19 - mid 70s MG Midget - mid 70s the original Honda Civic. Late 70s I personally don't like smaller cars, but mostly because of the lack of content and shoddy equipment in that segment of automobiles. I like to drive great distances, micro-cars are not suited for drives such as New York to Miami, or Ft. Lauderdale to Pittsburgh. I have no problem with well made micro cars, the "el cheapo" crappy ones really don't need to exist. If it is about economics, buy a second-hand car of substance. Americans will ALWAYS have the option to buy whatever they wish, because the market demands it, and our infrastructure supports it.
          tump
          • 3 Years Ago
          @navalphoto
          DrEvil, it's not the 1970s anymore.
      Hossi Blumengaarten
      • 3 Years Ago
      First I have to say that I drove this car when I went to India with my gf( bad idea since Indian people are the biggest racist pieces of crap I have ever met) the car sucks but it does not suck as much as India. It felt like driving a golf cart or a go kart. Later on I found out the things catch fire so I guess I was lucky to get out of the car( and India alive, my gf family tried to kill me since I am not Indian, gf forgot to tell them I was from Iceland)
        throwback
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Hossi Blumengaarten
        I doubt she forgot to tell them. She probably figured they wouldn't have invited you.
        brown_lightning
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Hossi Blumengaarten
        it'd be funny **** if your gf read this.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
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