That the Tata Nano is on its way out is a known fact. Autocar India had first reported Tata Motors’ decision to end the Nano chapter back in August 2018. Sales of the manufacturer's smallest passenger vehicle have stuttered and sputtered, and yet, the company chose to keep the Nano alive for 10 full years as it represented the company’s dream of making motoring affordable for the Indian masses.
However, the decision is no longer in Tata Motors’ hands. The plug is about to be pulled on the Nano – originally dubbed the ‘Rs 1 lakh car’ – because of new safety norms that will be implemented this year.
Even before it can get to the October 1, 2019 deadline for all cars to meet the updated crash test norms, the Tata Nano has another hurdle to deal with. From April 1, 2019, all cars made in India need to have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), which the Nano does not – and will not – get. With demand almost non-existent, it makes little financial sense for Tata Motors to invest in upgrading the Nano and giving it ABS at the end of its life cycle. And it is for this very reason that the Nano will neither be upgraded to meet the updated crash test norms nor meet the BS-VI emission norms – both of which will require an even bigger investment. Hence, the necessitation of ABS will be the final blow for the Nano, and the car will be discontinued in April 2019.
Sales of the Nano – which was famous for being the cheapest new car in the world – hit a new low in June 2018, when Tata Motors sold just three examples. Between July and December 2018, the company found only 310 buyers for the car that was designed to sell in the thousands every month. Hobbled by several setbacks early on in its life, it was always a challenge for the Nano to capture the Indian buyer’s attention.
Tata Motors tried a number of measures to give it a shot in the arm. It included the addition of a power steering in 2014 and the inclusion of an AMT with the ‘GenX’ update aimed to make the Nano a competent city car. The company is also said to have invested Rs 400 crore in the development of the next-gen Nano (codenamed ‘Pelican’), which was to get a more powerful engine, a more comfortable interior and most importantly, a beefed-up structure that would help it meet crash test norms – but the project has been shelved. It’s in line with Tata Motors’ new strategy of having a model range based on two platforms only – Alfa and Omega.
Now with the Nano about to be relegated to the history books, Tata Motors is set to vacate the ultra-low-cost entry-level segment entirely. And with more and more first-time car buyers opting for more aspirational (and relatively more expensive) models, it seems unlikely that any other carmaker will venture into the space that was, at one point in time, expected to become a Tata stronghold.
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