Ratan Tata has a lot of things to his credit. He’s a successful businessman, owns two luxurious car brands and has the coolest name in the auto business.
This is the man who managed to slip Jaguar and Land Rover under his Tata Motors umbrella while also building and selling the world’s cheapest car, the Tata Nano.
Of course, the Nano hasn’t exactly risen to the occasion as the spectacular new Jags and Rovers have. In fact, there have been more than a few cases of the 2-cylinder, 37-hp cars bursting into flames and burning up on the side of the road. That’s not good for business—just ask Henrik Fisker (the guy with the second-coolest name in the biz).
So why, in his right mind, would Mr. Tata think the Nano could thrive in the United States?
Tata told Automotive News,
The smart (fortwo) and the FIAT 500 have high sticker prices, and people buy them because they are small cars. But everyone knows you put a lot of money into it. We hope that the sub-$10,000 car has appeal.
So he’s playing the price card. A small car at a cheap price will, in theory, sell simply because it’s small and cheap.
Mt. Tata’s a smart man, though, and should know that the U.S. market is a tiny but more finicky than that. For around 12 grand, buyers can get a new Nissan Versa, not to mention all the fun, classy and even luxurious cars available on the used market for around $10,000.
Tata won’t just compete with the base Versa, the Nano will take on every car priced between $8,000 and $13,000 on the CarGurus used listings. Many, if not all, of those will be better built and more powerful than the Nano.
The U.S. version will be bigger and more powerful than the Nano sold in India and will even have power steering and traction control. What it won’t have is a reputation for quality or even a dealer network, because there’s no way these will be sold anywhere near a Jaguar or Land Rover.
For around $10,000, would you consider a new Tata Nano over, say, a 2005 BMW 3 Series?