The Tata Nano should be available in the U.S. by 2013, but after changes to meet emissions and safety standards, the world’s cheapest car will be quite a bit pricier than it is in India.
Tata Technologies, Ltd. showed the tiny vehicle recently at the Detroit auto show. The engineering firm was instrumental in designing the Nano from concept to launch last summer in Mumbai, but they would not speak for Tata Motors regarding price or distribution dates.
Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata group of companies did say the car should be ready for distribution in the U.S. in around three years.
The European model of the Nano four-seater will debut in 2011 and will cost around $8,000. Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official from Tata Technologies said privately that the U.S. version can be expected to be priced similarly.
President of Tata Technologies, Warren Harris, said only that the car will be priced higher than the current $2,500 price in India.
"The structural changes that would need to be made, the changes that would be required as far as emissions are concerned, and some of the features that would be appropriate to add to the vehicle for the North American market, obviously that would drive up the price point," he said.
Tony Jones, associate vice president of global automotive practice, said that Tata Technologies could be engineering the changes needed to bring the Nano up to U.S. standards.
Emissions standards in the U.S. will require changing the Nano’s two-cylinder 623cc engine before it can be marketed, says Jones. The roof would have to be stronger, the bumper lengthened and airbags added in order to meet U.S. safety standards that limit 5-mph crash damage.
The sparse interior of the Nano features three knobs, a horizontal switch, a steering wheel and flat bucket seats. The seats will have to be redesigned to comply with safety rules limiting movement of non-seatbelted passengers.
However, Jones says the Nano Europa was able to pass European safety testing easily.
The car can travel at a top speed of 65 mph and gets 50 mpg on the highway. The tires are 12-inch diameter and the vehicle is equipped with electric windows in the front and crank windows in the rear.
Even at $8,000 (excluding shipping), the Nano is priced well below the Hyundai Accent, which has a sticker of $9,970 and is currently the car with the lowest base sticker price in the U.S. according to Edmunds.com.