Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Is Tata Bringing Its Nano to the U.S.?

Tata Nano

In the clearest sign yet that the world's least expensive mass-market car is coming to the U.S., Indian automaker Tata says its Nano micro-car could be here in three years.

For thousands of Americans who have been clamoring for the $2,500 starter car, the tentative time line for a U.S. launch is a belated Christmas gift.

While there are still many hurdles to clear, I think the three-year projection is one you can bank on happening.

Here's my thinking:

1) Tata Chairman Ratan Tata has long coveted expanding into the U.S. He spends a fair amount of time here in the states while overseeing his conglomerates numerous business ventures. He knows the U.S. is a market where a well-made entry-level car could do well, especially on the east and west coasts.

2) With Jaguar and Land Rover, Tata has a distribution and dealer network in place to introduce the Nano.

Does that mean we'll see the $2,500 pint size car being sold next to a $60,000 Jag? No. But the dealer network can quickly and easily be tapped to set up Tata dealerships.

3) The Nano did well in preliminary crash tests in Europe and many believe it could meet U.S. safety standards with only modest adjustments. This has long been, and will continue to be the biggest question about selling the Nano in the U.S. Rest assured, Tata would not target sales in the U.S. if the safety standards would be a problem.

Finally, Tata knows that it has a limited window of opportunity to take advantage of being the worldwide leader in the burgeoning entry-level micro-car market. It's a market that has yet to take-off, but already the Nano has the brand recognition to help it stand out from competitors when they hit showrooms. The micro-car battle will heat up in a few years, and Tata is determined to win it.

We'll see how much of the battle takes place in the U.S.



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