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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Emerging Automakers: Pt. 4 of 4

Finally! I know, I really took my time here. On my defense, there were two attempts made to begin Pt. 4... unfortunately both ended abruptly with the computer freezing. Is my computer secretly a gear head? Is it trying to send me a message?

Nevertheless, deep apologies to whoever held their breath in anticipation. You’re probably already dead…

In my last post, readers may recall that I had little praise for the Chinese automakers (links here: pt.3, pt.2, pt.1).

In short, I signed the Chinese automakers off for being overambitious. I think we can all agree that a good way to judge whether a brand new automobile will be successful is by considering whether it has what it takes to be competitive in the segment it is entering in. It does not make any sense at this time for the Chinese to try and emulate German cars. For one reason or another, that is exactly what the Chinese has chosen to believe as the recipe for success. In the international market, however, consumers will not be fooled and no one is cross shopping between a BYD and a BMW. Period.

However, I ended the last post with a hopeful suggestion—“Can there be any emerging automaker that I do appreciate coming from Asia?”

Oliver Enojado, a friend and an early reader of our blog, messaged me with a very short answer. “No.”

But I have an answer. Ready? Tata! Does it sound familiar? No, it's not to be mistaken with tatas, you’ll have to get your fix of sleaze on some other website!

Tata is an Indian motor company famous for their purchase of the Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford. That’s for another time. In this post I want to talk about the Tata Nano. They made a car that made sense.


A particular issue Tata addressed, and this deserves a bit of discussion, is the global economy. The Tata Nano’s MSRP starts at an approximate $2500 USD, effectively honoring Nano as the least expensive car in the world.


The country of India did not receive as much media hype as China but there is no doubt that they are a major player in the current economic climate. Their cities are growing extremely rapidly and Tata sees the importance of not allowing the people become left behind by poor infrastructure. Cars are more expensive than what the average family would be able to afford so many families purchase a motorcycle instead. Fatalities from traffic accidents are notoriously high and with an ever growing population and the country in economic boom, safe mobility for the millions of families became Tata’s priority.

All in all, the result is incredible! Let’s be realistic people, going fast or being fun to drive is a luxury and there will be none of that in the $2500 Nano. Honestly, there won’t even be air conditioning. But life is most precious of all and luckily, that has been important to the engineers since the very beginning. The Nano offers ABS as an option and it passed both EURO III frontal and side impact crashes without a hiccup. A number of Chinese automakers cannot say the same.

Go ahead and call me a hypocrite for criticizing the Chinese for making cheap cars and then choosing the cheapest car of all as the car that I appreciate the most. But the fundamental difference of it all is that the Chinese cars were made in an attempt to fool buyers into believing that their cars are more premium than they really are. Tata created a car that was honest and built with more noble intentions.

Sometimes we get all caught up with numbers. Spec sheets and dynos cannot begin to describe the number of families the Nano improved the quality of life for.

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