Will Nano stall or storm, asks Canadian daily

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS,

Toronto : With the launch of Nano, the world’s cheapest car, making headlines across the world, a major Canadian daily asked Monday: Will the world’s cheapest car stall or storm?

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The National Post said though Tata Motors is first setting its sights first on the millions of motorcycle and scooter riders in its home country, the company aims much higher to capture some global market by 2011. It said Nano could turn out to be a potentially revolutionary product at a time of unprecedented financial upheaval worldwide.

The Post said Nano has become a symbol of hope and freedom, a buoyant belief that in a country where gross domestic product per person is only $2,900 a year, every worker will eventually be able to afford their own four wheels and a roof.

But at the same, the newspaper said, the low-cost car could also be a looming environmental catastrophe, with its sheer numbers increasing noise and air pollution in the streets of developing nations. The newspaper said Nano comes cheap because it is build from cheap labour and it is bare bones.

“The car has just one windshield wiper, tubeless tires, and none of the safety features like airbags and antilock brakes standard in other models. It has a 623-cc, 2-cylinder engine that cranks out about 30 horsepower,” the newspaper said.

While that may prove to be a selling point in emerging markets, it is a turn-off for more discriminating buyers in Western Europe, Canada and the United States, the newspaper quoted an auto industry researcher in New York as saying.

“[The Nano] might come to Mexico. I don’t think it’s going to come here, not in that format. It’s the bottom end,” the auto researcher was quoted as saying.

Carrying the Nano story under the headline “World’s cheapest car headed for North America”, Toronto Star said it remains to be seen whether Nano revolutionizes the global auto industry. Automakers will be watching closely to see how consumers respond to the car, the paper said.

It said though ultra-cheap Nano was initially meant only for market of “impoverished” first-time car buyers in Asia and Africa, the global meltdown has amplified Ratan Tata’s export ambitions. To this end, it said, Tata Motors has already unveiled Nano’s model for Europe, and one for the US market is in the offing.

Tatas may sell one million Nanos a year in India alone, but the tiny car may not turn around the group that posted a $54 million loss for the last quarter of 2008, it said.

The Globe and Mail newspaper carried the story without any comment. Major TV networks also carried the story, with clips of the launch ceremony.