The Tata Nano will be getting its third makeover since its launch in 2009. Known as the cheapest car in the world, the Nano will be getting an 800 cc engine. Meanwhile, the company is also thinking about offering a diesel option.
The makeover was planned in response to poor sales, which fell to a new low in November. The company set a goal of 10,000 units but it only sold 3,500 cars. Insiders said that an all-new Nano may be released 12 months from now, priced at about Rs 2.5 lakh for the base petrol version.
This new version is expected to rival Hyundai Eon and the Maruti Alto. Analysts said that the diesel option is a good move. Basudeb Banerjee of brokerage Quant Capital said that the market will have a more accepting attitude of a Nano 800 cc diesel.
He also thinks that Tata Motors will also be able to raise its volumes with this variant. What he points out as a deterrent though is the brand positioning of the Nano. According to company officials, the company won’t phase out the current 624-cc version even with its poor performance. It will still have the People's Car tag while the new model will be marketed at the more aspiring consumers.
However, several auto experts doubt whether the makeover will have much impact in a market that’s dominated by giants such as Hyundai and Suzuki. During a PTI interview last week, Tata Group’s Chairman said that Tata Nano is being 'refreshed' to reach its maximum potential. He said that the company wasn’t ready to market the car as it should have, primarily because of its lost momentum.
In October last year, there had been rumors that Tata Motors is mulling offering a version of its Nano for the United States market. It seems that Tata is mulling such a project following the success of the Fiat 500 and the Chevrolet Spark.
Unveiled in 2009 as the cheapest car available, the Tata Nano caught a lot of attention but failed to translate them to sales. According to the Indian Express, Tata sold only 74,527 units in fiscal year 2011, which is decent but fell short of the initial targets.
If Tata decides to offer the Nano in the US, the compact city car would a number of hurdles. First, the Tata Nano doesn’t have airbags or two wing mirrors. Powered by a 624-cc two-cylinder Bosch engine with an output of just 37 hp, the Nano would be hard sell in the US. Likewise, the Nano doesn’t have any traction or stability control or power steering.