Last year if you said the word “micro” and “car” in the same sentence you were likely to get people’s attention, especially here in the U.S. where regular unleaded was near or above $4 a gallon. The rise in gas prices led to an increase in small car sales and consumer interest in cars like the Smart ForTwo and hybrid technology (a.k.a. Prius). However, the end of 2008 threw another curve ball with the so-called economic meltdown that caused gas prices to drop back below $2 a gallon. With the drop in gas prices also came a decline in small car sales. So this begs the question, if Tata brought the Nano to the U.S. would it sell?
Given the overwhelming interest in the Smart ForTwo, which exceeded analyst expectations, it is likely that consumers would be interested in the Nano, especially if gas prices start rising again. There is one problem; the Tata Nano doesn’t get rave reviews from western culture and most industry experts doubt that it could meet the safety requirements. This is especially true considering that it doesn’t come with airbags nor are they options. The Tata Nano does come with 624cc two-cylinder engine that squeezes out 33 horsepower and will sip fuel at an economical 48 mpg. Our partners over at GreenCarReports.com even reported that the Nano puts out about 100 to 120 grams of CO2 per kilometer. That makes it almost as efficient as European diesels.
When is it supposed to arrive in the U.S.? According to Reuters, Ratan Tata, Chairman of Tata Motors, told a panel at the Cornell Global Forum on Sustainable Global Enterprises that the company anticipates bringing the Nano within the next two years. 2011 could be an interesting year with the introduction of the Chevrolet Volt and multiple offerings from Ford like a possible all-electric c-car platform. It is highly unlikely that Tata Motors could sell the Nano for the base of roughly $2600 here in the States, but even if they had to double that it would knock the 2009 Nissan Versa from the least expensive car position in the U.S.
Bottom line—The Tata Nano may sell over one million units in one year, but is it civilized enough for the U.S.? Likely they will make adjustments for the U.S. market, so Tata and the Nano may surprise the auto industry just like the Smart ForTwo.
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