Nano Clones…World Over!

car.jpgDo you want to enter the market for a no-frills car under $10,000? Pack your bags. For that price, you’ve got to travel to emerging automotive markets like India and China.

The Tata Nano is the latest entrant into the cheap-car club. India based Tata Motors says their Nano will roll out later this year. Any issues about the price tag? The car is about $2,500. The four-door car will be the world’s cheapest car, besting India’s current cheapest vehicle, the Suzuki Maruti 800, which sells for Rs.195, 000 (about $4,994).

The Maruti is the cheapest in India for now (Rs.195, 000; $4,994). It costs only slightly more than the Chery QQ, which is produced in China by Chery Automotive and sells there for 34,499 Yuan ($4,781). None of these vehicles are available in the United States; they are barred from entry in their current condition, because like the Nano, they do not meet U.S. safety and emissions standards (or is the US frightened of them?)

I searched the globe to find the world’s cheapest cars. Along with the Tata Nano, Suzuki Maruti and Chery QQ, I found the Geely MR sedan, the Geely HQ SRV SUV and the Chery A1 sedan in China. Rounding out the top 10 are the Hyundai I10, Tata Indica, the Fiat Palio and the Renault Dacia Logan. It must be noted that all of them are sold in India; the Renault is also distributed in Romania.

The Maruti, a five-door hatchback, produces 37 horsepower and runs on 12 inch wheels. Four people, including the driver, can comfortably sit inside. Its top speed is 78 miles per hour.

The Nano is about 10 feet long and 5 feet wide. The two-cylinder petrol engine delivers 33 horsepower and a top speed of just over 60 mph. The basic model has no radio, air-conditioning or air bags. However, it does have seat belts and a catalytic converter to reduce air pollution and gets 21 km per litre. It meets all safety and emissions requirements in India. What is more, the Nano may open doors for middle-class families in India to get behind the wheels for the first time.

U.S. consumers may feel left out, but one needs to recognize that there is a big difference between “inexpensive and cheap.” One may recall the “Yugo experiment” in 1985, when entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin introduced to the U.S. market a low-cost vehicle built in Yugoslavia. It has the infamous distinction of being one of the worst cars ever sold in the U.S. It lacked basic safety features and was poorly constructed. China manufacturer Geely Automotive tried to woo U.S. buyers with its products, which included the Merrie hatchback a few years ago. However, it failed to meet U.S. emissions and safety standards.

The Chevrolet Aveo, which has a base price of $10,895, is currently the cheapest car available in the United States. Ironically, it is one of the most expensive cars for the Indian roads. Well, I heard sometime ago that India is going to surpass US by 2020. Now, will it?!

Saurabh Sharma