about 1 year ago
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By Ruma Dubey

It was such a proud moment for India; when the entire world waited and watched Ratan Tata launch the cheapest car in the world, the Tata Nano. It was said that post this, India was all set to become the Detroit of the world and it will become an auto hub, not just for manufacturing for research too.

Well, sadly, the Nano itself seems to be on its way out, walking into the sunset, with the ‘The End’ tag already evident.

In October, it sold just 57 cars; this is like a joke when we recollect that in 2009, when it was launched, the company had set itself a target of 2.5 crore or quarter million cars every year. Since its launch, less than 3 lakh cars have been sold and that is right from 2009 to Oct’17.

We all know that the car flopped only and only because of a disastrous marketing and PR strategy. Projecting it as a ‘cheap car’, it repelled the vastly poor but status conscious Indians. How can we drive around in a car which says it is cheap! That sense of indignation is what did it in.

We may be poor and half the population might live in shanties, yet very few want to be associated with a car which is exactly for those on the lower rung of the economic ladder. 

Does that mean that we as Indians are so status conscious today that we pay no heed to economic sense? Has consumerism seeped in so deep that it has buried this sense of patriotism which we carry on our sleeves? Today, a car depicts an image and is no longer a means to get from one place to the other; is that what it is?

Surely perception alone cannot be the sole reason. Many say that Nano flopped because no one wants to buy the same car which your postman or dhobi is buying. But if that is so then how we come we do not mind if it’s the same mobile or the same TV? Yes, there does exist a subtle class divide but is it so deep rooted? Indians are known world over as one of the biggest savers and when we are so conscious about every penny we spend, would we allow mere status to decide to what we buy or use? Obviously, yes.

Tata’s did everything possible and even repositioned it as a car for the new generation, changing even its name to GenX Nano. Even its USP was changed from “cheapest car” to an aspirational vehicle. And it included a host of new features. Tata’s aimed at the emotional level through brand building and at the product level by making it a complete hatchback. Sadly, the image of Nano was too strong and this new branding simply did not stick. Also it no longer carries the price tag of Rs.1 lakh, the new variant is sold in the range of Rs.2.25 lakh to Rs.3.25 lakh.

Now we hear that dealers have stopped placing orders for the Nano and hope to clear the existing pile of inventory. Also the news is that the Tata vendors have not urged the company to start making the BS VI compliant engines, which means that the car may not be in the market after 2020. Tata Motors has not yet revealed any official word about the future of the petrol-powered Nano, but the revelations from the vendors prove that the company is not making any attempts to push the product any further. So looks like the end is here.

On the other hand, a Coimbatore based company has seized this as an opportunity. Jayem Automotive has tied up with Tata’s for supply of only the body shell of the Nano, without the engine and transmission; Jayem will itself make the electric cars, sourcing the electric engine from Electra EV and sell it under the brand name of “Jayem Neo.” There were unconfirmed news reports that Modi would be launching the car in Hyderabad on 28th Nov though no such thing happened. It is said to have tied up with Ola for supply of 400 of Jayem Neo.

Wonder why Tata’s never thought of going electric for the Nano and tying up with cab aggregators? Another company comes and seizes this opportunity.

Thus in the future, when you sit in a Jayem Neo cab, you are sure to be reminiscence the Nano that could have been. And yes, we will not feel “poor” sititng in a Nano-like cab!

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