Nano tech

There’s an old real-estate quandary: all else being equal, do you buy the biggest house on a blah block, or the smallest house on a block you otherwise couldn’t afford?

History records that I did the latter. However, I’m not quite sure how this rule translates to automobiles, especially now that there are actual Tata Nanos being built. And there is serious demand for the lowest-priced car on earth:

About a month ago, Tata Motors began accepting pre-orders (through a lottery/booking slip form) for the World’s Cheapest Car, the Nano. In the first week, Tata announced it had sold over 81,000 booking forms but Tata has even better news to report this week: 203,000 fully paid bookings. Now that the pre-order window has closed, Tata will use a computer to randomly pick the first 100,000 people who will get to take possession of [the] tiny car in July.

Are all these people buying the stripper version? Not even:

Tata Motors says that the Nano Standard makes up 20 percent of the bookings, while the Nano CX snagged 30 percent, leaving the remaining 50 percent of the orders for the top-end Nano LX. The LX apparently offers metallic paint as well as power windows, fog lamps, air conditioning and heater.

And that most bodacious of the Tatas is selling, not for the $2000 or so of the base version, but upwards of $4000. At that price, you have to ask yourself:

If the price tag is going to cross Rs 2 lakh [Rs 200,000] for the Nano, should you consider plonking in even more and look at any of the alternatives such as the Alto, or even the Chevrolet Spark?

Obviously, if you are someone who decides to go in for the Nano LX, you are not exactly the low-end customer who is looking for “just a car”. You want your luxuries, and you are willing to pay more than Rs 2 lakh on the road for a little car — why not go in for a bigger, more powerful car that is also reliable? That is a question you should seriously consider.

The Chevy in question is a ten-year-old Daewoo design that can be had in Mexico, for instance, as the Pontiac Matiz G2; the Alto is a kei-class buggy by Suzuki.

Meanwhile, Tata says it will sell the top-end version in the States, for a price as yet undetermined. At, say, the $7k point — it costs money to meet Federal standards, after all — you have a choice between a brand-spankin’ new Nano and a four-year-old Hyundai Accent.


  1. Deborah »

    6 May 2009 · 7:04 pm

    Wait—go back to the smallest house on the pricey block. I am presently trying to talk husband into this same scenario. How did that work out?

    I am considering a small house built in 1955, in what eventually grew to be a very upscale neighborhood. It has a quirky personality, and stands on one-half acre of lovingly-tended landscaping. The man who built it only recently passed away, and I like the idea of being the second owner.

    Any thoughts or suggestions?

  2. CGHill »

    6 May 2009 · 7:46 pm

    So far, it’s working out just fine: I have a quasi-prestigious address in a semi-historic district (and entirely too many hyphens), and the structure itself, a product of 1948 technology, has proven itself decently sound. I am becoming persuaded that the first dozen or so years after World War II were some sort of high-water mark for low-end housing: after that, taking shortcuts became irresistible. (Which is not to say that everything they build today is crap, because it isn’t; but as always, you’ll pay for the good stuff.)

    “Quirky,” after all, sells itself. I’ve got all these 1940s crank-out shutters and ancient round air ducts with Bakelite knobs — and a breakfast bar with track lighting, fercryingoutloud. Every day starts with an anachronism.

  3. Deborah »

    6 May 2009 · 8:16 pm

    “Decently sound” is a phase I can use. I had not focused on the idea of superior craftsmanship. While small, this house was definitely custom-built. Ah Charles, I am encouraged. Thank you.

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