The Nano-sphere

Pick-me-up looks and a price to please.

Tata Motors’ ultra low-cost car, or the one-lakh car as it had come to be known, had sparked interest in all of us simply because of the seemingly insurmountable challenge of making a modern automobile at that price.

The people that fed the rumour mills about how it would be an auto-rickshaw with four wheels, the critics that warned about the environmental impact that such a $3,000 car would bring upon us and the politicians who were opposed to the very concept, never really expected the end product to turn out the way it did.
Setting hearts aflutter

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In the end, the Nano, after it was unveiled, has set a billion hearts aflutter, not merely because of its unbelievably affordable price but because of the promise it holds for providing safe personal mobility to a huge section of the Indian two-wheeler riding population.

And contrary to the vitriolic criticism that it will be an environmental disaster, the Nano will be more emission-friendly than the average motorcycle and, more surprisingly, it could well turn out to be one of the cutest looking cars in town.

For the section of the population that has been able to afford a car, the Tata one-lakh car would have seemed ‘infra-dig’ to own when it was still under wraps.

After it was unveiled, though, the awe and expressions of surprise even among the well-to-do in the audience clearly indicate that when the Nano is launched, its buyers are not going to only be the ones that are currently accommodating their family of four on two wheels.
Learning experience

Mr Ratan Tata, the Tata Group’s Chairman, has said that the Nano has been a huge learning experience and the challenge, though similar in terms of the fact that intrinsically it was an entirely new product segment as was the case with the Indica when it was under development, took on a whole different dimension because of the need to contain its costs within a preset target.

The Nano’s price was the only certainty at the time the project was conceived. And, then, starting from a clean sheet of paper, the car was designed and developed keeping manufacturing costs, material costs and post-purchase running costs at the lowest possible level.

The result is a car that will be priced at Rs 1 lakh (for the standard version), maintaining the originally mentioned price point; as Mr Ratan Tata said, “A promise is a promise”.

There will be other levies like VAT, transport, road tax, insurance and registration before the car reaches the hands of its owners and as such the on-road price could be Rs 1.3- 1.4 lakh depending on location.

However, after seeing the car, the price actually doesn’t seem to the only reason why there will be droves of buyers heading to Tata showrooms. Despite its low-cost focus, the Nano actually has character, adorable looks and finish quality that will make the current A-segment monopolist, the Maruti 800, seem like an archaic box on wheels.

The finish quality, glowing paint job, consistent and tight gaps between the Nano’s metal body panels, precise integration of the bumper to the car body and the Spartan but neatly finished plastic dashboard are all good indicators that the Tata mini car’s overall quality will not be a compromise that the rumour mills were claiming it would be.
Novel features

Behind the Nano’s smiling countenance are the fruits of lateral thinking and innovative ideas that have made the incredibly low price a reality.

And instead of coming up with features and solutions that hint at the frugal engineering that was required to keep the stiff price point for the car, there are quite a few novel features that clearly make the Nano a modern day car.

For example, the clear-lens headlamps, the centrally mounted instrument cluster, the stalked outside rear-view mirrors, tubeless tyres, high-mounted stop-lamp and, of course, the finish quality and the obvious hints at sophistication in design.

An international audience could well mistake the Nano to be a Japanese mini car concept for emerging markets.

One aspect of the Nano that is still being unravelled is the methods that were adopted, by the company and its suppliers, to keep its price within the magical Rs 1-lakh mark. That also brings us to the very issue of what are the noteworthy features of the Nano.

Metal bodied with four doors and capable of seating four adults in relative comfort, the Nano is designed to accommodate the average Indian family.
Innovative engine

To eliminate the need for a drive shaft and to help in making a mini car such as this safe, the 623cc petrol engine of the Nano is mounted at the rear. The fallout of this feature is cost savings by eliminating the drive shaft and also a reduction in weight. This also means that the car doesn’t need a bonnet grille for air intake, but vents next to either side of the rear doors will do.

Plastic panels have been innovatively designed to eliminate the need for screws and fit by just snapping on firmly. Instrument cluster displays only basic information, but is attractively designed. The engine has also been innovatively designed and developed for keeping the cost of fuel injection and management systems low.

And as Mr Tata himself said, it might sound simplistic, but the fact that the car has been put together into such a compact package, has also contributed to keeping the costs low, since the amount of material — steel, rubber etc., and energy used was that much lesser. The first engine of the Nano is expected to be the 623cc petrol mill that will put out a modest 33 bhp of peak power and be capable of doing a top-speed of about 70-80 kmph. The engine will initially be paired with a four-speed manual transmission.

Tata Motors is said to be working on a CVT (continuously variable transmission) for introduction at a later date. The company’s engineers are also working on a diesel engine and hybrid version for the Nano.
Fears dispelled

At the unveiling of the Nano, Mr Ratan Tata also put an end to all speculation about the car’s safety and emissions. Criticisers of the Tata mini car and the ‘Greens’ had been claiming that the car would be dangerously unsafe to drive and will be an environmental disaster. But, after hitting back at the critics, Mr Tata has clarified that the Nano will meet all emission and safety norms, both in India and abroad and, in fact, the car can even accommodate airbags and side impact protection that is mandatory for making an European debut.

The Nano has been a dream, not just for Mr Ratan Tata, but would have also been so for millions of Indians waiting for safe and affordable personal mobility for their families.

With the tantalising prospect of not just affording the Nano, but also keeping its running costs low (what with the promise of a fuel efficiency of 20 kmpl) for buyers, the wait till the Nano’s launch will now seem unbearable.

source:The Hindu


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One Response to The Nano-sphere

  1. Pingback: Nano Accessory « SPEAK INDIA

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