Two years on, Tata Nano sales yet to hit top gear

It's been a little over two years since Tata Motors shifted from Singur in West Bengal to Sanand in Gujarat and began manufacturing its Nano brand of cars here. During the last couple of years, the superfluous hype surrounding the Rs 1-lakh "people's car" has struggled to translate into sales for the company.

Tata Motors managed to sell just 1.75 lakh Nanos since the celebrated commercial launch in March 2009, which is far lower than the excitement that told on the booking numbers.

The cumulative sales of Tata Nano during the just-ended fiscal (2011-12) stood at 74,527, which is a 6% increase compared to 70,432 cars recorded during 2010-11. "The sales are progressively increasing with good response to the Nano 2012. You will have noticed that from January to March 2012, sales of the car have moved from 7,223 to 9,217 to 10,475," a spokesperson from Tata Motors told The Indian Express.

In spite of the growth in the last one year, the sales figures for the 2011-12 fiscal or the cumulative number of 1.75 lakh cars for the three years between July 2009 and March 2012 remains well below the plant's annual production capacity of 2.5 lakh cars. Moreover, these sales figures fails to impress considering the fact that Nano received 2.06 lakh bookings after its commercial launch on March 23, 2009.

The car was launched with a pre-launch price of Rs 1 lakh.

"There were huge expectations when the Tata Nano was launched. Initially, it was marketed as a family car. That marketing strategy did not seem to have worked, considering there was a lot of dissatisfaction regarding certain features of the car, including the steering, the noise from the engine, etc. But now the company has not only introduced a better looking car (Nano 2012), it is also aggressively marketing the car by trying to woo urbanities, especially the youth," said Vipul Vinzuda, a faculty at National Institute of Design (NID) who is also an expert on transportation and automobile design.

The predictions of 2009 that stated that Tata Nano would expand the nation's car market by 65% and would cause a 30% dip in the prices in the used-car market, all seem to have all fallen flat. Fingers were also pointed at the safety of the car when a few cases of Nanos catching fire were reported from different parts of the country.

Now, Tata Motors is trying hard to improve the features of the vehicles by incorporating suggestions from its customers. "Since July 2009, the Nano's owners, over 90% of whom are highly satisfied with their choice, have given us valuable insights on what more can be done. We have introduced some of these ideas through the introduction of the Nano 2012 in November 2011," the Tata Motors spokesperson said in reply to a questionnaire.

Asked to comment on the time-frame when the Sanand plant (that was designed to produce 2.5 lakh cars initially, and expandable up to five lakh cars per annum) will reach the full production capacity, the spokesperson said, "As sales progressively increase, which they are, the plant will reach comprehensive capacity utilisation".

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