Sales stall for world’s cheapest car

NEW DELHI, December 26, 2010 (AFP) – India’s launch of the world’s cheapest car, the Nano, was expected to create a vast new market segment in the nation of 1.2 billion people, but reality has fallen short of expectations. “The really good thing for Tata is that those people who have the car are happy with it. Word of mouth is a slow process but I still think the car has potential,” said Hormuz Sorabjee, editor of India’s leading automobile magazine Autocar. “We are at the gates — offering a new form of transportation to the people of India,” said a proud Tata chairman Ratan Tata at the unveiling three years ago of the globally-hyped vehicle.

Tata, who spearheaded the Nano’s development as a way to get India’s masses off two wheels and onto four, was likened by some to Henry Ford, who revolutionised the US car market with the Model T.

But the Nano’s fortunes have gone into a tailspin with last month’s sales of the snub-nosed “people’s car” plunging 85 percent from a year earlier to an all-time low of 509 units, despite a rapidly expanding vehicle market.

While the five-seater Nano, which hit the roads with a price tag of 100,000 rupees (2,500 dollars), has battled troubles such as fires in some of its ca