Gone but not Forgotten Series – Tata Nano

Do read our earlier article in the ‘Gone but not Forgotten’ series – Toyota Qualis and Ford Fusion.

In this post we shall cover India’s one of the most ‘iconic’ cars – Tata Nano. Dubbed as the ‘World’s Cheapest Car’; Tata Nano stirred up quite a storm when the model was unveiled at the Ninth Auto Expo in New Delhi in Jan’08. The world media was stunned by the announcement of $2,000 world’s most affordable production car and was being compared to the likes of VW Beetle or even Ford’s Model T. During the unveiling Tata’s head Mr. Ratan Tata said, “The car has 623 cc engine with mileage of over 20 km/litre.” Comparing it to Maruti 800 he said, “It is eight per cent smaller—bumper to bumper—and has 21 per cent larger seating capacity than Maruti 800.” The vehicle was also labelled as “The People’s Car“.

The idea of the world’s cheapest car was conceived by Mr. Ratan Tata on a rainy day after he saw a family of four on a bike. “The fact of unsafe travel was bothering me,” Tata, the erstwhile chairman of the Tata group recalled in an interview in March 2011. “What really motivated me…was constantly seeing Indian families riding on scooters, four or five on a scooter, maybe the child sandwiched between the mother and father…on slippery roads in the dark.”

At the launch of Nano, Mr.Ratan Tata stated “The journey started six years ago when we overtook what looked like just another business… a business to give Indian families an affordable transport means, a small car which was very low in cost. It is to the credit of the team what we have achieved today. Hopefully, we will be able to give young India a car which was not in their reach to make transport safer for them. I am pleased to say that our promise is kept today to provide a car at Rs 1-lakh. The basic car would be at Rs 1-lakh at the factory gate in Pantnagar,” said Tata.

Nano also altered the 34-year-old political history of West Bengal. The company decided to build its plant in Singur in 2006, which was about 50 kilometres from the state’s capital city – Kolkata. Tata Motors planned to invest up to ₹2,000 crore and turn Singur into an auto city. However; widespread protests broke out against the setup of the Tata’s manufacturing facility, leading to the ouster of the communists after over three decades in power. The state also got its first woman chief minister in Mamata Banerjee who had spearheaded the Nano protests. Due to the political turbulence in West Bengal, Tata Motors decided to shifted the Nano’s manufacturing facility to Sanand in Gujarat. It is said that Gujarat’s then chief minister Narendra Modi reportedly approved the project over just an SMS!

Tata Nano was introduced as a BS-III compliant vehicle and came with an all-new 2-cylinder aluminium MPFI 624cc petrol engine mated to a four-speed gearbox and was available in three variants. The 2-cylinder engine delivered 35 PS Power @ 5,250rpm and a torque of 48nm @ 3,000rpm. The top speed of the car was electronically limited to 105kmph. For good reasons. It’s not advisable to drive it at speeds above 80kmph. It also had an ARAI fuel efficiency of 23.6 kmpl, which was the highest for any petrol car in India! With a length of just 3.1 metres, a width of 1.5 metres and a height of 1.6 metres, the Tata Nano had the smallest footprint for a car in India!

We all drool after SUVs with high ground clearance and high seating position for better frontal visibility. The Nano had all of the above. Huge windows for phenomenal all-around visibility, high seating position, and SUV-like 180mm ground clearance.

The three trim levels and their key features available at the launch were:

Tata Nano Standard (BSII* and BSIII*): The standard version, in three colour options, single-tone seats, and fold-down rear seat.

Tata Nano CX (BSII* and BSIII*): In five colour options, with heating and air-conditioning (HVAC), two-tone seats, parcel shelf, booster-assisted brakes, fold-down rear seat with nap rest.

Tata Nano LX (BSIII*): With the features of CX plus complete fabric seats, central locking, front power windows, body-coloured exteriors in three premium colours, fog lamps, electronic trip meter, cup holder in front console, mobile charger point, and rear spoiler. Many of these features are not available on current entry-level small cars in the country.

  • Tata had initially intended to maintain a production capacity of up to 2,50,000 units, should the need arise. However; unfortunately the Nano nameplate could sell only 2,98,011 units in its entire lifetime!
  • The initial hype around the car was so much that the sales of Nano’s closest competitor Maruti 800 fell by 20%, immediately following the unveiling of the Nano.
  • The Tata Nano had drawn over 2.03 lakh fully paid bookings amounting to nearly Rs.2,500 crores, in an encouraging response to the car launched on 23rd March.
  • The launch response was humongous – The Tata Nano website recorded an unprecedented 3 crore (30 million) hits from the date of launch of the car to the closure of the booking period (25th April 2009), nearly 1 million hits a day. About 14 lakh people walked into Tata Motors’ Showrooms, Croma and Westside stores across the country to catch a glimpse of the car. A total of 6.10 lakh forms were purchased from the booking centres. 70% of the 2.03 lakh bookings received were financed, while 30% of the applicants booked in cash by paying fully. About 4,000 cash bookings were made online through www.tatanano.com, a first for the auto industry in India at that time.
  • Tata had envisioned huge success for the Nano as India was primarily an entry-level hatch market. Rather India was one of the biggest markets in the world for entry-level hatches!
  • Tata registered the highest yearly sales of the Nano in 2012 and since then the model struggled to make an impact.




Primary reasons for Nano’s downfall were:

  1. Branding it the ‘World’s Cheapest Car’. “It became termed as a cheapest car by the public and, I am sorry to say, by ourselves, not by me, but the company when it was marketing it. I think that is unfortunate,” Mr. Tata later admitted himself.
  2. Safety Concerns – In 2010, a Nano caught fire in Mumbai and over the next few months, several such incidents were reported. However; the company denied that it was connected to the car’s design or its parts and blamed “foreign electrical equipment” found on top of the exhaust system.
  3. Elongated Initial Waiting Period. The consumers were not ready to wait and with the continuous branding of the marque as a “poor man’s vehicle” turned customers away.
  4. Build Quality. In 2014, Nano was crashed for NCAP by ADAC in Germany. Despite Tata’s claim that it was expecting 4 stars; the Nano actually got Zero stars for lack of adult protection and didn’t even meet basic UN safety requirements.

Irrespective of the journey of Tata’s Nano; it garnered tremendous adoration from the auto experts. Here are some of Nano’s accomplishments.

1. Nano In US’ Autoline After Hours Podcast Thumbnail

There’s a Nano along with other cars in their background placeholder image. They may stop using it if they found out that Tata is not making it anymore.
Tata Nano in Autoline Afterhours Podcast Banner Image
Tata Nano in Autoline Afterhours Podcast Banner Image

Check out their channel on YouTube at Autoline After Hours

2. Jalopnik’s review calls it ‘an engineering triumph’ and that Bugatti Chiron is an ‘engineering stunt’.

Tata Nano is Better Than Bugatti Chiron
Tata Nano is Better Than Bugatti Chiron
The author’s conclusive remarks were:
“… a true spiritual heir of what the original Volkswagen Beetle, Citroën 2Cv, BMC Mini, and Ford Model T strove to be. I can think of no higher praise than that.”
It’s a level of respect probably no other made-in-India car from an Indian carmaker will every earn.
Tata Nano Design & Engineering
Tata Nano design showcasing Man-Maximum, Machine-Minimum principle executed to perfection – Jalopnik
The entire review is worth a read. Check it out over here: Jalopnik’s Review of First-Gen Tata Nano

3. Jay Leno has one

And he praises the Nano’s AC claiming that it’s better than his McLaren F1’s. Check out his review of the Tata Nano:

4. Tata Nano Could Become A Future Classic

In an Autocar India blog by Perseus Bandrawalla, the Nano has everything in it to become a future classic and a collectable. We agree with the logic. It’s a car with a sound intention that did its job well but failed. Now all that remains is a victory lap in the end and we have ourselves a story worthy of projecting on the big screen.
Here’s the Autocar blog: Power To The People

Second-Gen 2015 Tata Nano Automatic

In 2015, Tata gave it a thorough update. Here’s all that it got in 2015:

  • A fancier steering wheel – the one that’s also used in the pre-facelift Tata Nexon
  • Openable hatch for easier access to the boot and engine for maintenance
  • Better sound insulation
  • 5-speed AMT automatic, straight from the Tata Tigor
  • A comprehensive MID with real-time fuel and average efficiency readouts for each of the two trip meters, gear position indicator
  • Larger fuel tank (24 litres instead of 15 litres)
  • Improved paint quality
  • Smoked headlamps

But none of it could save the Nano from its demise. Due to the dwindling sales; Tata Motors decided to pull the plug on the Nano in 2018. There is no denying the fact that Nano was one of India’s most iconic cars, and will always remain in our hearts as the car that made the global automobile behemoths take note of India. If succeeded; it would have made Tata Motors a major automobile player not only in India but across the world too. Hence; even that the Nano is now gone – It is definitely not forgotten and will always be remembered!

Gone but not Forgotten Series – Ford Fusion

Do read our earlier article in the ‘Gone but not Forgotten’ series here.

Now you may wonder why Ford Fusion was considered in the series. Yes; Fusion sales numbers were dismal – But, as a model it was much ahead of its time. The Fusion for that matter can claim to be India’s first ‘crossover‘ car. Ford had termed it as an ‘Urban Activity Vehicle’. The Fusion nameplate referred to its combination of small hatchback, MPV and SUV design features. Also its economical operation from its B-class underpinnings; enhanced maneuverability from its four-meter footprint as well as enhanced roominess, accessibility, passenger and cargo volume from its tall configuration.

In the Indian market; there was no real competition for the Fusion back then barring estate versions of the Fiat Palio and Maruti Baleno Altura. The Fusion boasted a mix of 1.4 litre petrol and diesel engines and there was also the more powerful 1.6 litre gasoline option. The 1596cc 1.6L DOHC four cylinder four cylinder in-line Multi-Point Petrol Injection engine used to generate a maximum power of 99.6 bhp at 6500 rpm and a maximum torque of 146 Nm at 3400 rpm and was mated with a five speed manual gearbox. On the other hand, the 1399cc 1.4L TDCi SOHC four cylinder two cylinder in-line High Pressure Common Rail Diesel engine generated a maximum power of 68 bhp at 4000 rpm and a maximum torque of 160 Nm at 2000 rpm and was mated with a five speed manual gearbox.  Fusion was an extremely practical car and its ground clearance of 198 mm could rival some of the well-known SUVs too. Ford Fusion was available in four variants which were 1.4 TDCi Diesel (2007-2010), Diesel Plus (2009-2010), 1.6 DOHC Petrol (2004-2010) and Petrol Plus (2009-2010).

Ford marketed the Fusion as The-No-Nonsense-Car; going by its name, it was a very practical car way ahead of its time, and was popular mostly among enthusiasts. Let us see how the model fared in the years it existed in the Indian market –

  • Fusion registered its highest yearly sales in 2008. It was primarily due to the introduction of the diesel engine in 2007. The unavailability of the diesel engines initially was a big miss from Ford and had an impact on Fusion’s sales.
  • The model struggled in terms of sales throughout its lifetime. It averaged 162 units per month in a segment where the competition (hatches) were easily faring >1k units/mth average.
  • Ford’s positioning of the vehicle was questionable. The buyers termed the vehicle to be pricey as it was a ‘hatchback’. Fusion was fighting the likes of Swift and the i20 for volumes. But in reality; Fusion was way ahead in terms of practicality & value for money.
  • The model actually lost out in terms of the negative word of mouth pertaining to high maintenance cost, low mileage and bland looks.
  •  The feeble sales volumes meant that Ford had to let go the model and it was finally discontinued by end 2009 and the stocks were liquidated by 2010.
  • It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Fusion even led the way to the iconic ‘Ecosport’ which was launched in India by 2012.

There are some cars which try to create a segment of its own and have very special characteristics. Ford Fusion was definitely one of them and we can say that though it is now gone; but not forgotten for the attempt it did. – Auto Punditz

Cars Production Statistics India – FY2020

Over 34 Lakh Passenger Vehicles were manufactured in India in FY2019-20 (Apr’19 to Mar’20). The Production degrew -15% YoY in FY20 v/s FY19.

We have been getting a lot of requests to collate the Manufacturing / Production Statistics in India. We thus share the statistics for past 2 Financial Years. Total 34,34,015 cars were manufactured in India in FY2019-20 and was almost 6 Lakh units lesser than FY2018-19. Economic Slowdown, BS6 Transition and average exports were the reasons for lowered production in the last fiscal.

Let us see the OEMwise production statistics for FY2020 –

Rank OEM FY2020 FY2019 Growth
1 Maruti Suzuki 15,53,456 18,24,652 -15%
2 Hyundai 6,47,756 7,11,525 -9%
3 Ford 1,93,014 2,56,496 -25%
4 Mahindra 1,90,468 2,71,245 -30%
5 Tata Motors 1,49,104 2,25,256 -34%
6 Renault 1,12,422 89,836 25%
7 Kia Motors 1,01,420 0
8 Toyota 1,00,339 1,59,888 -37%
9 Honda 98,377 1,79,999 -45%
10 Nissan 88,505 94,692 -7%
11 Volkswagen 78,461 90,828 -14%
12 General Motors 70,228 76,482 -8%
13 MG Motors 23,605 0
14 FCA 12,362 22,815 -46%
15 Skoda 11,712 17,017 -31%
16 Force Motors 1,400 2,158 -35%
17 Isuzu 1,362 2,475 -45%
18 Mahindra Electric 24 438 -95%
19 HM 0 245 -100%
TOTAL 34,34,015 40,26,047 -15%
  • Maruti was the largest production of passenger cars in India and had manufactured over 1.5 million units in FY2020. Over 45% of the cars manufactured in India wears a Suzuki badge!
  • As usual, Hyundai came second with a manufacturing output of over 6.4 Lakh units in FY2020.
  • Ford was the Third Largest producer of cars in India for FY2020! Owing to high export volumes; Ford has been able to utilize its production capacity well and has a utilization % better than the likes of Mahindra, Tata and even Toyota. (link)
  • Mahindra & Tata came in 4th and 5th spot respectively. Both the OEMs recorded over 30% drop in YoY production statistics.
  • Renault was the only OEM to record a YoY growth and manufactured over 1.1 Lakh units in FY20.
  • Kia manufactured more cars than Toyota too in FY2020! Kia’s focus on exports from day 1 is quite evident and the Korean OEM has been able to utilize pretty efficiently too.
  • General Motors manufactured more cars in India than MG, Jeep, Skoda and Isuzu combined! Post exit from the Indian market; GM’s focus on exports enabled it to utilize its production effectively and the same is pretty evident now. However; with the sale of the Talegaon manufacturing plant, GM is on the way to completely exit India.

Gone but not Forgotten Series – Toyota Qualis

We at Auto Punditz have always been fascinated with data. This coupled with our love for automobiles have made us initiate a new series in our website named ‘Gone but not Forgotten’. The intent of this series will be to pay homage to models which would have made enormous impact in the Indian market and is still fond by many consumers. The first model to be part of this series is the Toyota Qualis. The reasons for listing Qualis in our first post is –

  • Qualis was the first model launched by Toyota India (way back in 2000)
  • It is one of the few models which have been discontinued at its peak. Qualis registered one of its all time highest monthly sales in December 2004 while the model was discontinued in January 2005!
  • The model earned Toyota the fame for having the most durable engines in the market. You can still find Qualis running on the road fuss free even with lakhs of kms on the odometer.
  • It is not easy for any OEM to launch a MPV as the first model in a country. Toyota not only dared; but was hugely successful with it!
  • It paved a way for Toyota to showcase its superiority in terms of ‘Quality, Durability & Reliability’ promise. This paved way for Toyota to launch much costlier Innova and also be successful with it.

The Toyota Qualis marked the entry of Toyota Kirloskar Motor Private Limited – a joint venture of Toyota Motor Corporation and Kirloskar Group in India in 2000. Qualis was nothing but a ‘Kijang’ which was sold globally. Qualis was based on the 3rd Generation global model, but with updated front & rear styling and also shared some 4th generation drivetrain components. Qualis was pitted against the already successful Tata Sumo & Mahindra Bolero. However; it slowly became the favorite of the fleet operators & large Indian families. Qualis earned popularity as a capable workhorse and had the ability to handle the Indian roads. It sold over 1.4 Lakh units in the 61 months existence in the Indian market. The model had an early death as the critics said that the vehicle was outdated and came with an awkward / non-aerodynamic design.

Let us see how the model fared in the years it existed in the Indian market –

  • The above chart clearly signifies how Qualis had gained popularity over the years it existed in India and how it was discontinued at its peak!
  • Qualis sold an average of 2,338 units per month in the 61 months it was on sale in the Indian market. The model fared well as an entry model for Toyota India.
  • As a matter of fact; the model was not only discontinued in India, but globally too. Toyota replaced the Kijang/Qualis with either a smaller Avanza or the larger Innova. India as a market; got the Innova.
  • We also believe that Toyota has huge potential to sell Avanza in the Indian market. It is an excellent entry-level MPV from Toyota’s stable and will suit perfectly to Indian conditions. The only reason Toyota may not bring Avanza to India is that the Innova is already successful and the margin on Innova’s sales would be obviously higher than that of Avanza.

In its existence in India; Qualis was primarily sold in 3 variants – 

Source

The Qualis was launched in January 2000 at an on-road price of around 5.7 lakhs for the base variant and 8 lakhs for the top-end variant. The models that were introduced were the FS (Family Saloon) and the GS ( Grand Saloon) and GS-T (Grand Saloon Touring).

  • The Family Saloon (FS) model was the entry level model and the cheapest variant of the Qualis. It was a bare-basic model which was actually targetted for the tourist business (read that as Sumo). This model came without a/c and power steering and these luxuries were available only as an option. The FS Model was a 10 seater with a bench seat for the passenger in the first row and side facing seats in the last row. So the seating configuration was a 3+3+4. It was available in a choice of 3 solid colors i.e. White, Red and Blue. There were further variants within the FS range – B1, B2, B3, B4 and B5. Since the FS was the base version targetted towards Sumo/Bolero buyers, Toyota offered this model with minimum equipment and with only solid colors. Metallic paint was not even offered on the FS Model – and to make things worse, there was a choice of only 3 colors – Maroon, Dark Blue and White. The lowest variant of the FS model did not even have Power Steering, Power Windows and A/C. To make matters worse, even decals were not offered standard on the FS model.
  • The Grand Saloon (GS) was the model that was targetted at the family buyer. It was available in 8 and 10 seater configuration. The 10-seater configuration was similar to the FS Model. The 8-seater had a bucket seat on the front row and forward facing seat in the last row – thereby making the seating configuration as 2+3+3. The GS model was equipped with a side cladding/fender and even a classy looking aluminium footboard. It was also available in a choice of 3 metallic colors i.e silver, maroon and teal. Power steering and a/c were standard on the GS. Although other options such as power windows, locks were also offered as options across the GS range.
  • The Grand Saloon-Touring was introduced a few months later and was priced at around 9+ lakhs. This was the top-of-the-line Qualis which had all the bells and whisltes. Power steering and windows, Checquered flag decals, alloy wheels, bull-bar with integrated fog lamps, dual A/C, Central locking, De-fogger, Rear spoiler and wiper.

We hope you liked our series and do drop in a mail at contact@autopunditz.com for feedback and also share which models you’d want to see further. – Auto Punditz

From Sanitizers to Facemasks – How Indian Automakers are pitching in to fight the Pandemic

These are certainly extremely unfortunate circumstances, probably the worst pandemic that the present living population has ever faced. From longing to work from home to getting desperate to get back to offices, from fantasizing dream holidays to wanting to somehow survive through the night, this pandemic has definitely dropped a bombshell on each of our lives. Who would have ever imagined that they would be immensely contributing to the well-being of the world, just by staying idle in their homes! As we try to do the best we can, car makers not just in India, but across the world, aren’t idle but are pitching in their entire effort to fight off this pandemic. Monetary aid or physical aid, small or large, every drop counts! These come at the stage even when their entire production machinery is put to a grinding halt and since the sales is ZERO and so is the revenue.

Aids and contributions have been made by almost every automaker in India, in whatever best way available and possible by them. Few OEMs have also been thinking of repurposing their production lines during the lockdown, and contribute in manufacturing of healthcare kits. And since automotive manufacturing is hugely different from healthcare manufacturing, it is just not as easy as one would think, to completely re-purpose the machinery to manufacture an entirely different product.

Repurposing of production lines come with their own challenges. But the key take away for the companies would be protecting their own workforce, while also positively impacting their reputation. The complexity of repurposing depends on the product that is to be manufactured. Manufacturing of simple masks and face shields do not require the entire production line to run, nor require the entire production workforce. But producing complex health care systems in lines that are built for manufacturing cars can be extremely hard, complex and time consuming. For instance, Elon Musk has offered to produce ventilators in Tesla’s production line, if at all time requires. Engineers at Mahindra, on the other side have produced cheaper ventilators indigenously, making use of their existing production lines at Kandivali and Igatpuri. These ventilators, called AIR100”, are under rigorous testing by ICMR, and once approved, Mahindra is willing to ramp up its production volumes, as claimed by its Managing Director, Mr. Pawan Goenka. Mahindra also along with its JV partner, is producing face shields with design contributions from FORD, and is shipping to major healthcare units across the country. Many other Automakers have also extended their helping hands in fighting off this Global Pandemic.

Here is a comprehensive list of contributions pledged or made by the Indian auto makers until end of April 2020 –

Automaker Monetary Aid Medical or Health care Aid Other Aid
Bajaj Rs. 100 crore Special Economic Aid Program for Rural areas
BMW India Rs. 3 crore – Helping in creation of special Isolation wards in hospitals. Providing nutrition to marginalized families in selected cities.
– CCE and PPE to hospitals in Chennai and Delhi
FCA India Rs. 2 crore – Medical equipment, air validation systems and oxygen pipelines to selected hospitals Essential kits to 1500 families
Hero Rs. 50 crore – Rs. 50 crore for relief works
Honda Rs. 11 crore Food packets to under privileged
Engine powered sprayers for fumigation
Hyundai Rs. 11 crore – Rapid Testing kits from South Korea 6000 dry ration packages
– 17000 PPE kits, 20 lakh masks and  lakh sanitizer kits
– 1000 ventilators
Kia Rs. 2 crore – Not Known Not known
Mahindra Not known – Face shields, hand sanitizers and ventilators
Maruti Suzuki Not known – 10000 ventilators per month along with AgVa Healthcare. Dry rations and food packets to families in villages nearby to manufacturing units.
– PPE for frontline workers
– 1 Million masks for Haryana and Gujarat
– 16 Waste collection vans for Haryana
Mercedes Benz Not known – Temporary hospital in Pune with 1500 bed isolation ward Dry rations and kits to 1600 families
MG Rs. 2 crore – 100 Hector SUVs for personnel delivering essential services.
– 1000 ventilators per month from June
Skoda & VW Rs. 1 crore – 35000 sanitizers and PPE kits
Tata         Rs. 1500 crore as part of Tata Sons
TVS   Rs. 30 crore

Auto Punditz salutes the contribution done by all the automakers in these trying times. We also hope that India as a nation and as a economy comes stronger post this pandemic.

(With this post we officially welcome Karthick to Team Auto Punditz. Karthick is an auto enthusiast, and an engineer by profession, currently employed in an auto MNC at Chennai; has a craving on new tech and a particular interest on the Indian automotive market.)