Motors Ltd unveiled the world's cheapest car on Thursday, bringing car
ownership closer to millions of consumers in emerging markets.
The 4-seater Nano, with an engine around
625cc, will have a dealer price of 100,000 rupees ($2,500) -- about half the
cost of the cheapest car on today's market, a 25-year old model from rival
The Nano will go on sale later this year,
the company said.
"Let me assure you and our critics the car
we have designed will meet all safety norms and all foreign environmental
criteria," Chairman Ratan Tata said as he proudly unveiled what had been
dubbed the "People's Car" at the Auto Expo in New Delhi.
The compact but curvy Nano stands in sharp
contrast to the luxury Jaguar and Land Rover brands that Tata is negotiating
to acquire from Ford Motor Co.
Hundreds of people crowded into the
pavilion to see the long-awaited launch, standing on chairs to get the best
view as Tata introduced and then drove the car onto the stage in a media
circus more worthy of a pop concert or an Oscar ceremony.
Tata planned the car years ago as a safer
and affordable alternative for the millions who often ferry families of
four, plus baggage, on motorbikes and scooters.
"It's a dream come true," Ashok Singh, a
constable with the Delhi Police, said at the show. "I look forward to buying
that car. My wife will be really happy."
Environmentalists are not so enthusiastic.
They worry millions of the cheap cars will flood on to India's roads, many
of which are already heavily congested, sending emissions levels sky high in
Asia's third-biggest economy.
The car arrives at a time when oil has
topped $100 a barrel, the move to fuel-efficient "green" cars is gaining
momentum, and a wave of nostalgia has spurred sales of brands such as BMW's
Mini and the Fiat 500 Cinquecento.
Tata said the car would have a rear-mounted
engine and travel 20 km per litre. It would be offered in a basic model and
two deluxe variants.
"The proof of the pudding will be in
driving it, but visually it looks pretty good," said London-based auto
analyst Ashvin Chotai, who was present at Thursday's unveiling. "The pricing
was a bit of a surprise. I thought it would be a bit higher."
Chotai believed deluxe variants of the Nano,
which will include features like air-conditioning, would account for bulk of