The Nano wowed many when it was first unveiled at the Auto Expo in New Delhi in January 2008. Launched commercially on 23 March 2009, many sceptics have questioned its on-road performance.
Narain Karthikeyan, the first Indian on the F1 circuit, puts all these doubting Thomas's to rest. He told domain-b's Arvind Sridhar, ''The Tata Nano has made India proud and it is a great example of how an Indian innovation can create a monumental impact on the world.'' Karthikeyan is among the select few to have had the privilege of test-driving the Nano extensively.
Ratan Tata, chairman, Tata group, had initially conceived the Nano as a low-end 'rural car,' probably without doors or windows and with plastic curtains that rolled down - a four-wheel version of the autorickshaw, one might say. What we see today is a car as we know it, despite the exponentially increasing challenges faced by the Nano team. There was the low-price barrier, inflation, adding more features and parts to the vehicle, substantial changes in basic raw materials, right upto the Singur imbroglio.
Based on his experience behind the wheel, Karthikeyan can testify to Tata Motors' claims of the Nano's superior quality and performance. ''Despite being inexpensive, the Nano is a top-quality product," he asserted. "I have driven it a lot and it is a marvellous piece of engineering.''
Karthikeyan believes that the Maruti 800 is perhaps the closest competitor to the Nano. He adds, ''The Nano doesn't lack in any department when compared the Maruti 800. It is lighter than the Maruti and has ample horsepower for a 623cc car. The drive is very comfortable and you will be pleasantly surprised.''
Tata Nano Europa for the European markets will be launched in 2011, is likely to cost over $2,500 and faces a strong international test. It will also be modified to meet US market norms and be available to customers in the US in the next three or four years. Karthikeyan's testimony holds Tata Motors in good stead to enter these markets strongly.
Karthikeyan believes Tata Motors has rewritten automobile books and with his ample test drive experience, he is convinced that ''it is worth much more than a lakh.''