The latest news on the world’s cheapest car front is that Tata’s expectation to create a vast new market segment in the nation of 1.2 billion people, has tanked.
Nano’s fortunes have gone into a tailspin with last month’s sales of the “people’s car” plunging 85 percent from a year earlier to an all-time low of 509 units, despite a rapidly expanding vehicle market. In November, the next cheapest car on the market, the Alto from Japanese-owned market leader Maruti Suzuki, got 33,000 sales. Notably Alto is twice the price of Tata Nano.
Although many factors contributed to poor showing of Nano, that range from a price hike (from launch tag of 1 lakh to 1.37 lakh for non-AC model), to Singur agitation, to instances of car catching fire etc. ; but the inability of Tatas to understand the psychology of Indian middle class also contribute greatly to likely demise of People’s Car.
No doubt Tata saw a market in billion plus citizens, and tried to take them off from their two wheelers on to a four wheeler; but failing to understand the basic encouragement that leads an Indian to buy a car, never allowed Tata to live its dream.
To bring where Tata failed monumentally to your notice, here I want to narrate a cartoon, cartoonist Shyam Jagota, created three years ago just before the Nano launch. The cartoon shows a lady having a glance of Nano passing by from her expensive Sedan. To this the man sitting beside her, say “Dear, in Nano walon se nain mat milana” simply translates to –“Dear, Don’t make an eye contact with these Nano car owners”.
Shyam’s cartoon rightly portrays the car related sentiment of an Indian. Car for an Indian is still an object to boast about and rather than a wish to be on a four wheeler that protects the family from rain and sunlight; Car for an Indian is a thing to talk about and to announce to the world that he/she has clicked riches. And irrespective of what car an Indian buys, he/she treats it as a device to climb social and economic hierarchies.
Alas, Tata didn’t see the cartoon then, otherwise they would have realized that, no Indian will like to ride a too cheap car and then be tagged as a cheap person. Something that will make him/her a target of social snubbing; and even after spending a lakh rupees he/she will not be able to derive any benefits his/her brain has perceived.
So after this monumental inability to sense the pulse of an Indian, Can Tata rescue Nano?
Yes I think it can.
Here’s my advice to Tatas: Don’t say the car is safe, just bang it on to a concrete wall. Show to the world the crash test dummy is safe(upload the video on YouTube, give the video to news channels etc.). Don’t try to thrust a too affordable car to an Indian. Improve its quality and take its price close to Alto. Make Alto your competition, not a scooter or motorcycle or an 80,000 Rupees motorcycle.
If applied rightly, Nano can be rescued.