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Tata (TAH-tah) Motors began as an Indian locomotive manufacturer in 1945. In conjunction with Daimler-Benz, Tata released its first commercial automobile in 1954. In 1991, the Tata Sierra became the first passenger car wholly designed and produced in India.
In 2005, Tata began developing a car that could compete with India’s main form of motorized transport: the motorcycle. To do so, it had to be very inexpensive. When the model seen here, the Nano, debuted in 2009, it was famously hailed as the world’s cheapest car, with a purchase price of about $2,300 US.
To achieve the low base price, Tata engineers found creative ways to save on production costs. There is no power steering, no airbags, no crumple zones, no air conditioning (on base models), no passenger side mirror, and no external fuel filler. The Nano has one windshield wiper and only three lug nuts per 12” wheel, instead of four (just like Citroën’s 2CV). Its length is just over 10 feet, only slightly longer than the two-passenger smart FourTwo, yet the Nano has four doors and can seat four adults (tightly). Even though it appears to be a hatchback, its rear engine is only accessed by a panel behind the rear seat; this structure also adds rigidity. Its water-cooled, two-cylinder 624cc, 33hp, engine is very fuel efficient, achieving up to 55 MPG. However, fast would not be a word to describe the Nano; it takes 30 seconds to reach its top speed of 62 mph.
Sales of the Nano have fallen short of their projections. In a culture where status symbols are important, the Nano is seen as a “poor man’s car”; one could buy a nicer used car or motorcycle instead. In 2012, various colors were added to the Nano model line, as well as upgrades such as power-assisted brakes, an anti-roll bar to improve handling, and even Bluetooth! By 2017, as more creature comforts have been added, the price of the Nano has risen to $3,200 USD.
Manufacturer: Tata Motors, Inc.
Country of Origin: India
Drivetrain Configuration: Rear-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine: Water-cooled, two-cylinder, 624cc; 33 bhp
Transmission: 4 speed manual
Top Speed: 62 mph
Years of Production: 2010-present
Number Produced: Still in production
Original Cost: 123,000 rupees, ($2,300 USD)