By Ruma Dubey
Tata Nano. The small car kindled big aspirations; it reinstated the faith that if you can dream something, you can make it. But then it also taught us the entire country a very valuable, albeit expensive lesson for Tata Motors – marketing and advertising can make or break any product!
The Nano is slowly but surely being phased out. There were be lesser and lesser Nano’s being made for domestic markets though the company says, production for exports will continue. Tata Motors has decided to stop investing anything more in the car and that will mean an eventual phase out. It needs to undergo a crash-test from 2019 onwards which means new investments – Tata Motors is not planning to spend any more. Also the Nano will have to be made Bharat Stage VI emission norms by 2020 and with the company not planning to spend another dime, clearly the idea is to phase out the car. The company has come out and announced stoppage of production but this will be an eventual and gradual death.
So what was the USP of Tata Nano? Well, it was to be the cheapest car in the world. When it was launched, it was indeed the cheapest but it has been trying its level best to shake off its USP, of being the cheapest. It launched a new variant – Nano Twist and it came with an Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS) system, designed for easy maneuvering in tight driving and parking situations. The EPAS system comprised of a steering column-mounted brushless motor and an ECU (Electronic Control Unit), which helps the driver steer the Nano Twist. It also had features like remote keyless entry, twin glove boxes, and a four-speaker music system with Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary connectivity.
The quintessential Indian question – kitna deti hai? A fuel efficiency of 25.4 kmpl, as certified by the Automotive Research Association of India.
The Tata Nano, when it was launched was pegged as a car for the middle class, lower middle class family. Basically, a low cost car. But that backfired as people who wanted to buy a second car, the affluent upper middle class, refrained from doing so because they felt it was “cheap” and would hurt their status. Thus Nano suffered. Tata tried its level best to shake off this image and targeted it as a fun, yuppie car for the young. Obviously the brand equity of being the cheapest car was too hard to shake off.
So why does status matter so much? We are a poor country, so why have advertisements got be about a very rich India, basically depicting less than 10% of the population? The houses shown in ads, the clothes and overall ads, all depict a very well to do, rich India. On the other hand, when it has to be about social messages, it always shows the poor. Yes, aspirations is what drives demand but putting up a false picture which does not really exist… yeh baat kuch hazam nahi hue….
It is not Nano alone, the entire clan of models from the stables of Tata Motors suffers from an image – people simply do not have the faith in their models. Indica does well today, mainly as a “travel company” car. It had to discontinue the Aria model after it did not do too well. It currently has two bets in the market – Hexa and it competes with Renault’s Duster, Nissan’s Terrano, Mahindra’s Scorpio, Hyundai’s Creta and Honda’s BRV. The other new car – Manza is the most expensive car ever from the stables of Tata Motors, priced at Rs.17.50 lakh, it competes with Mahindra’s XUV500.
Yes, Nano is making losses consistently and yes, it has an “emotional cord” not just with Ratan Tata but rest of India too. Shutting down the Nano, in many ways would mean showing the door to the dreamers.