Tata, an Indian auto maker, is unveiling its Nano car today. The animating idea is that the Nano has been designed to bring road transportation to the masses in India, particularly people who'd never had access to a vehicle before. But the car's also earning itself another reputation as the world's cheapest car: it costs just $2,000.
The car is marketed under the snappy tagline "A comfortable, safe, all-weather people's car, high on fuel efficiency and low on emissions." (For more on the Nano's environmental impact, click here.) It's a tiny four-door auto, with a rear location for its 2-cylinder gasoline aluminum 623cc engine. Think of it as a smaller Smart car with two extra doors. The company has development capacity for 60,000 cars per year, which will rise to 250,000 annually when a new plant opens later this year. Due to its ambitiously low pricing, Tata has had to make extensive use of new approaches and innovative technology during the Nano's design and manufacture, and it's now the first car to use a twin-cylinder non-opposed gasoline engine on a single balanced drive shaft.
Like so many great deals, the $2,000 price tag may not last long. The Nano's sticker will apparently rise after the first 100,000 models due to economic pressures caused by the global crisis and rising materials costs. But the demand for the car is expected to be astronomically high, and initial customers will be selected by lottery from the applicants. Tata even has plans for expanding sales into Europe and the U.S.
Of course, Chairman Ratan Tata has never lacked for lofty goals. He describes the launch thusly: "We are at the gates offering a new form of transportation to the people of India." As of today, we'll start to discover if he's right.