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Tata euthanizes the Nano

by Ronan Glon

The Nano was too cheap for its own good.

The Tata Nano earned the dubious honor of being the world's cheapest new car when it made its debut in 2008. Ten years later, the Nano has joined Plymouth, Pontiac, and the Honda Element in the industry's history department.

Tata -- the Indian firm which owns Jaguar and Land Rover -- had grandiose plans for the Nano, including selling at least a quarter of a million cars annually and, possibly, exporting some units to Europe. It never met either goal; production peaked at 74,527 units during the 2011-2012 fiscal year and there is not a single Nano legally registered in the European Union.

In hindsight, the Nano was too cheap for its own good.

Its image as a poor man's car did little to lure buyers into showrooms. Widespread reports of the Nano's superb flammability also discouraged many motorists from signing the dotted line. Finally, safety concerns -- it scored zero stars in a European crash test -- made it a questionable purchase for those in need of an affordable vehicle to carry a family.

As Bloomberg points out, the sharp decline in Nano sales is even more eye-opening considering how quickly India's new car market has grown in recent years. The passenger vehicle, commercial vehicle, and two-wheeler segments respectively grew by 38, 42, and 22 percent in June of 2018.

The car "in its present form cannot continue beyond 2019," according to company officials. Tata officials acknowledge the Nano "many need fresh investments to survive." There's no word on what comes next, though. It's unclear whether Tata will retain the basic architecture but make comprehensive improvements, introduce an all-new second-generation Nano, or throw in the towel.