There is high enthusiasm for the Nano, the “people’s car” that Tata Motors says has already elicited 30 million enquiries. And this enthusiasm couldn’t have come at a better time.
The idea of a compact car for the masses is almost as old as the automobile itself. Henry Ford’s Model T, the Volkswagen Beetle, the British Mini and the French Citroen 2CV come to mind. Each of them is associated with an iconic moment: the birth of assembly-line production, the post-war boom of the 1950s in Europe, or the counterculture of the 1960s. India’s previous “people’s car”, the Maruti 800, today connotes the rise of its middle class. So, what iconic moment does the Nano connote for India?
The Nano’s Rs1 lakh price tag and size may actually endear the car to rural India. Since Monday, this newspaper has begun analysing the still-high consumer demand in villages and smaller cities. Like the Beetle in Germany, the Tata Nano may end up energizing this consumer base and being remembered as part of India’s drive-up from its slowdown.