Pricier, Grown-up Tata Nano Heads for Europe…Eventually

By Andy Bannister

03.03.2009

tata-nano-europa-frontOne of the more remarkable new cars of last year, the micro-sized, micro-priced Tata Nano, will be exported to Europe after all, with a beefed-up version of the Indian tiddler going on display at this week’s Geneva Motor Show.

Unfortunately for Tata, and possibly for European consumers feeling the pinch, the Euro-spec car won’t make it to the old continent until at least 2011. A new ultra-low priced car might be just the gimmick dealers need at the moment.

To be known as the Nano Europa, the car has been significantly modified for its introduction to the European market.

Most noticeable are the bigger bumpers front and rear to comply with European crash regulations, plus more sensibly-sized wheels and a wider track. It sounds like the car will be loaded with extra equipment compared to the Indian version (yet to go on sale on its home market, after a series of production delays).

Flashy leather trim and electric gizmos inside, however, won’t make up there is no direct access to the car’s luggage compartment, which is accessed via the rear doors.

tata-nano-europa-rearThe tiny Indian market twin-cylinder engine will be replaced by a more powerful, low CO2 three-cylinder for Europe, putting it into contention with offerings from the likes of Suzuki (which is just introducing a new Alto, also built in India) and the smallest cars from Hyundai, Kia and GM Daewoo.

The car’s projected European price is 5000 Euros ($6,270 at the current unfavourable exchange rate), which sounds pretty low until compared with the admittedly much more basic Indian version, costing around three times less.

Very cheap cars have had mixed fortunes in Europe. Dacia’s Logan has been a huge hit, but is a proper-sized car at a remarkably low price. Little-known marques like Perodua of Malaysia have had little success (though they have a tiny foothold in the UK), nor have the Chinese up to now.

Previous attempts by Tata to sell its vehicles to European consumers have proved ill-conceived, with the Indica hatchback, the Safari 4X4 and various commercial vehicles half-heartedly sold in a piecemeal way and then withdrawn. The company will need to put this failure behind it and build a good sales network, and quickly.

Tata’s purchase of struggling Jaguar Land Rover is looking an ever-more questionable move in the current climate, with few obvious opportunities for economies of scale or shared facilities.

While JLR’s dealers are desperate to move some metal at the moment, a future corner of the showroom devoted to the Nano Europa still seems an unlikely prospect.

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Author: Andy Bannister

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