Press Report : Tata Motors sets Nano Europe launch date

John Reed in Geneva, Financial Times, 4th March, 2009

Tata Nano in European specification
Tata Nano in European specification

India’s Tata Motors plans to sell its much hyped low-cost model, the Nano, in Europe from 2011, and an electric car from next year.

In a sign of its ambitions to break into the high end of the European market, Tata also plans to sell the Prima, a new luxury saloon designed by the Italian design house Pininfarina, on the continent by 2012.

The Nano, or Tata’s ‘people’s car’, became one of the world’s most talked-about vehicle since it was introduced in Delhi last year, because of the carmaker’s promise to break new records on pricing in an intensely competitive and cost-conscious industry.

Ratan Tata, the family-controlled group’s Chairman, introduced the cars at the Geneva auto show this week. He said the three vehicles represented ‘the ongoing evolution in our cars.”

The Indian conglomerate’s carmaking arm owns the UK premium brands Jaguar/ Land Rover, which are suffering sharply lower sales in the current global industry downturn.

Last week, Tata announced a March 23 date for the Indian launch of the Nano, which will reach dealerships in early April and sell for about $2,000. Demonstration models were driven to temples across the country to receive blessings as part of the marketing campaign.

The Indian launch, originally planned for last year, was delayed amid demonstrations that forced it to move production of the car from West Bengal province to a site in Gujarat.

Tata Nano in European specification
Tata Nano in European specification

The car’s debut will be closely watched in the country, where it is a source of pride, but could prove an Achilles heel for the group if it goes wrong.

Tata did not announce European prices for the Nano. The Nano Europa, as the car is called, will meet the continent’s safety and emissions regulations, which are stricter than India’s, and therefore will likely be significantly more expensive. Tata already sells some of its other models in Italy, Spain and Poland.

In Europe, the Nano will face stiff competition in the fast-growing city car segment, where manufacturers from Toyota and General Motors to Fiat and PSA Peugeot Citroen are launching well-reviewed new models, many of which were on display in Geneva this week.

Tata’s electric car will also compete alongside a growing number of entrants into the niche, including Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Renault, GM, and Daimler’s Smart minicar brand. Heuliez, a French contract car manufacturer 60-per-cent-owned by Indian entrepreneur Ajay Singh, plans to begin selling electric cars in Europe next year.

Christophe Cairoli, the company’s sales and marketing director, told the Financial Times that it planned to sell its electric model, the Friendly, from February 2010 in western Europe, where it would sell for less than €15,000, including tax. ‘We think we can sell 20,000 of these cars per year,” Mr Cairoli said.

Tata will produce its electric Indica Vista in conjunction with Miljo Grenland/ Innovasjon, a Norwegian company in which Tata’s UK technical subsidiary bought a 70 per cent stake last year.

The Indian company said it was currently performing ‘extensive tests” in Europe on the car, which will be powered by lithium-ion batteries and have a predicted driving range of up to 200 km.

Tata Nano in European specification
Tata Nano in European specification

[Source: Financial Times/]

Clive Goldthorp


  1. The problem with the Tata nano as an export car, bar the obvious market perceptions, is that Western Europe doesn’t NEED a “people’s car”. We don’t need cheap transport for the masses; they’ve already got it in the form of countless reliable, functional, attractive and even prestigious less than a decade old used cars.

    It doesn’t matter how they dress it up, it’s a car designed to get a second-world population into first-world consumerism and mobility. We’ve been there and done that; it’s a waste of time even for Eastern Europe.

  2. Ayd, a big part of the MINI’s styling is the immensely selfish and risk-averse nature of car consumers now. Yes, it’s a status car because really, anyone on a budget looking for a car now has a huge choice of low-cost, high volume models to pick from. Mini, as was, is fondly remembered as a small and cheap car at a time when the smaller the car, the less you paid, and the crossover was minimal.

    The affection comes from people getting that first buzz, and then the impression of that spreading. It’s why ALL of those “people’s cars” are held with such affection – they weren’t a bit of metal, they were freedom, independence, even the destruction of a class barrier. Fiat 500s, Renault 4CVs, Citroën 2CVs, Minis, VW Beetles – the metal doesn’t matter. It’s what they stood for. If a European maker wants to really cash in they need to make a 21st-century Trabant to sell to wealthy former East Germans.

    But the key is, it has to be evocative of those things to sell. Not BE those things. If you think “developing country” or “developing economy” and put, say, the Tata Indica out there for people to choose, they’d be flabbergasted by the technology, space and refinement on offer. Realistically for most of the population that would have been all the car they’d ever want or need. Tata already makes it and yet it feels the need to develop a cheaper, smaller model – and given how Europe reacted to the Indica, even with a familiar badge on it, I really think the Nano is going to be a total disaster in Europe.

    Whether or not this is right is another matter. I wish new cars were lighter, slightly more dangerous, a lot more expensive, and considerably less disposable. One could argue that the Nano is the thin end of the wedge, but to get people to accept these attributes you have to make them desirable, so the designers at the top need to start making the pillars slimmer, the materials lighter and more sophisticated, and the cars more attractive with these attributes.

    My favourite modern car as an example of getting it “wrong” is the Astra with the extended windscreen. I’m driving a car. I don’t really give a fig about what is above me. I’d quite like to be able to see what’s on the roundabout as I approach it, however…

  3. Well, to just disregard the Nano on grounds of so called European standards wouldn’t be that right. Though I accept the high quality and standards of European manufacturers, it is important to understand that more than 80% population of the world look forward to cars like the Nano and not the BMW quality benchmarks.

    While other manufacturers have tons of unrealizable patents, the Nano carries with it over 30 patents, realized, implemented and to be on sale any day now. It’s about innovation to reduce cost. It’s about business interests to serve the right audience.

    And to just cite an example, the European car, Dacia Logan, which is a subsidiary of Renault, is also a pathetic looking car targeted at low budget buyers. In India it is sold by Renault and is the worst selling car in its segment, outperformed by the Tata, Suzuki and Hyundai’s competing models, both in diesel and petrol.

    So what’s important is not to comply to European standards (which for most of the world is unreasonably high), but to meet consumer demands.

  4. It will be the working class of Europe that will decide if they wana buy this. Instead of buying a secondhand car you can now buy a new car for the same cost. This car is exciting.

  5. reliant kittan wasa early type of cheap car,dut with the them manerfactoring biuld to deer to make profit ,if body was injection molded thing would be diferant.

  6. Living in the outskirts of London, where buses are quite a rare sight, the “runaround” is a must. Driving a bog standard Ka is fine but losing £3,000 in depreciation in a year isn’t!

    I don’t think Tata can go too far wrong with the Nano as long as the interior and ride quality are of a reasonable standard (the Ka is probably a good benchmark). They must not forget that this will be an entry-level car and should not go down the route of the Ka Luxury (leather trim, air con etc… though it’s still just a cheap rust bucket underneath) but just keep it simple and practical.

  7. Once launched, this car is going to put sales chart on fire in the Europe. Its the buyers who decide the fate of the products & this product has it all to win the choice of people over there. After all who don’t want to save money.

  8. I would look at buying one if it was cheap enough – i am not made of money but i need a vehicle to get me about. if it has decent reliability then its a great idea .. but when if ever are we going to see on eon the market?

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