Thinking Tech

Tata Nano a hot car in more ways that one

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Tata Motors' Nano $2,500 car has earned excellent reviews, but the bugs are still being worked out as a photo of it fully involved shows.

India carmarker Tata Motors is still working the bugs out of its $2,500 Nano "people's car" and here's a photo to prove it.

According to an Associated Press story which appeared in many newspapers (I picked it up in the Boston Globe), software developer Satish Sawant, his wife and son were in the car when it caught fire. They escaped harm, but were unnerved. Tata has offered a new car or full refund.

credit: Associated Press

"My wife now doesn't want to buy any car," Sawant said by phone from his home in northern Mumbai on Thursday. "She doesn't even want to go for a Mercedes," according to the AP story.

Tata engineers characterized the problem as isolated and attributed it to a faulty switch, according to the story (one reviewer says the Nano has no switches...at least on the dash.).

Reportedly, there have been others reports of smoke in Nanos, but the the ultra-cheap auto has generally earned good reviews given the extraordinary value. Indeed, that is the conclusion of the reviewer in the video below. He is completely taken by the vehicle...and especially its price. He labels it "surprisingly refined" and "a terrific achievement" tantamount to the Model T Ford.

I love the idea of the Nano and hope Tata comes over here where cars are expensive. Tata, which also owns Jaguar and Land Rover, plans on selling the Nano in Europe in 2011 and eventually in the U.S. I'd keep mine close to home and off the Interstates. Top speed is about 105 kilometers per hour or 65 MPH.

The 5-door hatchback seats four and has a 623 cc two cylinder engine, smaller than the power plants in most motorcycles sold in the U.S. Tata is also preparing a Nano Electric Vehicle that debuted at the Geneva Auto Show earlier this month and will reportedly hit the European market in 2012.

At the estimated $8,000-$10,000, the Nano EV was preferred by 80 per cent of the respondents in a survey published this week by The Street.com for a very obvious reason: it will cost a quarter to half as much as hybrids and EVs coming this year from the established auto makers.

Sales of the Nano gas model have been brisk with pre-sales totaling 203,000 before it went on sale in April, 2009. I have to chuckle: one story on sales bears the headline "Tata Nano Sales on Fire." Indeed.

Its main competitor in India is the $4,000 Suzuki Maruti.

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John Dodge

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor John Dodge has written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, PC Week (now eWeek), EDN, Design News, Electronic Business, Bio-IT World, Health-IT World, Lowell Sun, Haverhill Gazette and Newburyport Daily News. He is based in Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure