Millennium Post

Tata Motors turns to GenX Nano to shed ‘cheapest car’ tag

To revive the fortunes of what Ratan Tata called ‘People’s Car’, Tata Motors is all set to unveil its new avatar, GenX Nano, positioning it as an aspirational vehicle. In a bid to lure first time buyers and bury the ‘cheapest car’ tag that has been associated with the Nano, which drew the world’s attention when launched in 2009, the company is making a “critical intervention” offering, with a host of new features.

It will have automatic manual transmission, openable boot and bluetooth phone sync audio system, among other features. The GenX Nano is expected to hit the markets in 6-7 weeks time, following which the existing range of Nano will be phased out except for the CNG version. Putting to rest theories about the company killing the brand, Tata Motors Senior Vice President (Programme, Planning & Project Management, Passenger Vehicles) Girish Wagh said that the Nano “is an extremely critical product” for Tata Motors. “Never did we have discussion about killing the brand...Our discussion has been how to re-energise the brand. We see there is a tremendous emotional connect with the brand and at the same time emotional hurdles too. “What we are trying to do is to address at the emotional level through brand building and at the product level by making it a complete hatch,” he said. Admitting the company’s mistake of Nano not addressing the “societal status” need of a two-wheeler rider while upgrading to a car, he said Tata Motors was correcting that. The company is doing so by offering all the functional needs like power steering, openable boot, automatic transmission for city driving and also providing a bigger fuel tank of 24 litres as compared to just 15 looters in the previous version. 

“We had to add these features so as to make it a smart city car. It is a very very critical intervention for the Nano... We have made significant changes and improvement in the perceived quality of the car,” said Wagh, the engineer who led the development of Nano.

The company had refreshed the Nano in 2012 and last year with Nano Twist, he said, adding “after that in terms of content this is the biggest intervention we have made”. While exuding confidence that the GenX Nano will spur sales, he said initial immediate sales volumes will be as important as creating a “perception change” about the product and the company. With new models Zest and Bolt changing the perception of Tata Motors as “diesel car manufacturer and a player who is making cars only in taxis”, Wagh said the GenX Nano would add to those efforts. “So, gradually, it is helping us improve the perception in the market, bring the Tata brand back in the consideration set of personal usage customers,” he said. 

Nano sales had been falling over the years. In 2014-15, sales of the small car decreased by 20 per cent to 16,901 units from 21,129 units in 2013-14. In order to keep the sales counter ticking, Tata Motors is offering existing customers pre-booking priority with exchange offer schemes. Ratan Tata, who made the Nano his dream to provide two- wheeler riders a safe alternative, had admitted that Tata Motors made a mistake in the marketing and positioning the Nano as “the cheapest car”. He had called for relaunching the car with a new brand image. 

The Nano was originally planned to roll out from a plant in Singur, West Bengal, but it had to be shifted to Sanand in Gujarat after political protests. 

Instances of some Nano cars catching fire initially after it was launched didn’t help its cause either. The car was launched in March 2009 with an initial ex-factory price tag of close to Rs 1 lakh for the basic model. It is currently available at a price between Rs 2.04 lakh and Rs 2.52 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) across variants. 

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