The Car Geek: An Innovative Small Car

The Car Geek

Friday, January 11, 2008

An Innovative Small Car

The Tata Nano has been widely anticipated by Indian consumers as well as by the global community. Last year, Tata Motors announced that they are in the process of developing what would be the world's least expensive car. The auto industry has been abuzz with that proclamation. Even major automakers have failed or did not try to address the issue of producing small and cheap cars that will be within the reach of millions of families. But Tata, an Indian automaker, has beaten them to the punch.

Mr. Ratan Tata, the chairman of the Indian automaker, recently talked about the Nano and how it came to be. He said that his goal is to provide a car for common folks which will be safer than scooters.

He said that they first intend to use materials like plastics but it will not be practical as they are aiming for large volume production output. "Initially I had conceived a car made by engineering plastics and new materials, and using new technology like aerospace adhesives instead of welding," said Tata. "However, plastics didn't lend themselves to the volumes we wanted because of the curing time required. Volumes mean the world in this context: if we produce this car and if it is for the wider base of the pyramid, we can't settle for small numbers because then the purpose is defeated."

He described how they were able to cut costs on the Nano but at the same time, come up with a quality vehicle which can be compared to Acura headers in terms of reliability. "We did things like make similar handles and mechanisms for the left- and right-side doors; we developed our own small engine which could sit under the rear seat, enabling us to craft a smaller overall package; we looked at a new type of seats; and we worked at cutting costs everywhere," said Tata.

"We have put our instrument cluster in the middle, not in front of the driver. This means the same dashboard will work for a left-hand-drive vehicle. There are a lot of such innovations that are low-cost and future-oriented," he concluded.