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The end of the road for ‘world’s cheapest car’

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(DW) – The ten-year journey of the Tata Nano, billed as the world’s cheapest car, has come to an unceremonious end as the Tata Group, one of India’s largest conglomerates, pulled the plug on production.

The compact car was the brainchild of Ratan Tata, the former chairman of Tata Group. He came up with the idea of an affordable car after he saw a family of four unsafely traveling on a rainy road in a two-wheeler.

When the compact vehicle was introduced in 2008, Tata wanted to offer millions of Indians the opportunity to own a car at the affordable price of 100,000 rupees. The launch was received with fanfare in India and grabbed global attention.

Several international awards were bestowed on the tiny vehicle for features such as fuel efficiency, low emission levels, adhering to all the regulations of that time and yet bundled at an affordable price.

However, the Tata Nano faced a barrage of troubles from the start. Political issues and bad public relations resulted in a sharp increase in production costs.

In July 2018, Tata Motors announced that it manufactured just one unit and sold only three cars in the previous month. Additionally, Tata hasn’t exported a single unit in 2018. The company said Nano, once hailed as the “people’s car” will henceforth be produced only on demand.

Sales of the Nano started strong, as nearly 70 percent of all the 300,000 total cars sold occurred in the first three to four years after it was launched.

The factory, located in Sanand in the western state of Gujarat, was chiefly set up for Nano with a production capacity of 250,000 units annually. It has gradually progressed to making other vehicles for Tata Motors, India’s third-largest automaker.

Pranav Prabhu, a businessman based in southern India, was among the first customers to purchase a Nano in 2008, and he still drives it.

Even after clocking 50,000 kilometers, Mr Prabhu said he is impressed by the car’s overall performance over the years.

Many Nano customers agree it was a roomy car that performed well for its price and had reasonable leg room despite its compact appearance. Nano drivers also enjoyed its small size for driving in crowded cities. Still, the chief reason for Nano’s lack of market success is attributed to its image as a “cheap car”.

“Somehow I feel the right people were not targeted. The car was limited only to urban markets,” Mahesh Bendre, an auto industry analyst with Karvy Stock Broking.

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