Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nano set for commercial roll-out Monday

The Nano, touted as the world's cheapest car, will finally be launched from here Monday.

The Tata group, India's largest industrial house, is all set for the commercial roll-out of the small-car that hit the global headlines last year, both after its unveiling at the Auto Show in New Delhi and then becoming the centrepiece of a political controversy over the location of its plant at Singur in West Bengal.

The $62.5 billion group finally had to shift its factory to Sanand in Gujarat after cascading politically-motivated protests over land acquisition from farmers raised questions over the company's ability to stick to its launch deadline, informally set for October 2008.

Showcasing its prototype last year, Tata Motors had announced that it will cost all of Rs.100,000 ($2,000) at factory gates - the lowest cost for any car so far. The group has said the booking process and specific details on the retail price will be announced Monday afternoon.

Tata Motors hope to start from the second week of April advance bookings for the 624-cc jellybean car, which has a snub nose, a sloping roof and just about room for five to squeeze in.

Company officials said arrangements were being made to accept bookings with the existing dealers of Tata Motors, at Westside apparel chain and Croma appliances stores promoted by the group, and select branches of the State Bank of India.

Touted as the next revolution in automobiles after the legendary Model T, The Nano will be available in three variants - standard, deluxe and luxury. The base model will have no air-conditioning.

The four-door, five-seat car has a small 33-bhp engine at the rear and is targeted at the strong Indian middle class population that aspires to trade its two-wheelers for a much safer vehicle at an affordable cost.

With a length of 3.1 metres, a width of 1.5 metres and a height of 1.6 metres, Nano also has adequate ground clearance and can effortlessly manoeuvre on busy roads in cities as well as in rural areas.

"Let me announce today that the dealer price for the car will be Rs.100,000 only," Ratan Tata, chairman of the group, had said last year, standing in front of the automobile he had promised to deliver four years ago, taking the project as a personal challenge.

"A promise is a promise," Tata had said, seeking to drive home the point he will deliver the car at the same price as he had set four years ago, despite major escalations in input costs.

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