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Tata To Run $7 or $8K in U.S.

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On: Mon, Mar 21, 2011 at 10:50AM | By: Chris Weiss

Tata To Run $7 or $8K in U.S.

If and when Indian automaker Tata succeeds in bringing the world's cheapest car to the United States, it won't be so cheap anymore, at least not when compared with its pricing in India. The tiny, four-seat Nano earned the rank of world's cheapest car when it debuted in 2008. In India, it sells for 100,000 rupees, which roughly equates to $2,000. Pretty damn cheap for a car. However, if the Nano is exported to the United States, as is Tata's plan, the price is likely to increase nearly fourfold, diminishing some of its appeal and buzz.

Tata originally announced plans to bring the Nano to the U.S. market in 2009. In order to bring the car here, the automaker will need to make it compliant with U.S. safety and emissions regulations, factors that will obviously add to the cost of the car. At the time that Tata announced its intentions, a price of $4,000 was rumored.

But Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata recently revealed that the price is likely to be closer to $7,000 or $8,000.

At a symposium at Cornell University, Tata said: "It won’t be a $2,000 car; it will be a $7,000 or $8,000 car. But it will still be, in comparative terms, a car that the U.S. would accept."

Now I haven't seen what Tata is developing for the United States, but judging by the tiny, boxy look of the Indian-market Nano, and by the fact that the only thing that makes the car a household name is that it's known as a $2,000, bargain-basement record-holder, and by the fact that it's offered from an unproven, new-to-market Indian manufacturer, I don't share Tata's confidence that many here will 'accept' it. Not for $7,500, anyway.

If you were wondering, the current cheapest car in the market is the Hyundai Accent GL, which prices in at $9,985. Given Hyundai's infinitely larger track record, particularly its strengthening reputation of late, I'd have to think that most buyers would cough up the extra 3 grand for that. I know I would. And that's not even to mention the superior used cars that you could buy for the same or cheaper than the Nano.

If history has anything to say about it, a tiny price tag isn't even close to enough to create success. Anyone remember the running, 1980s-era joke that was the Yugo?

Of course, if Tata plays up the efficient aspect of the car—it gets 56 mpg U.S. in its Indian iteration—and creates a larger, more appealing package, it may have a shot. But I wouldn't count on it.


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