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India's Tata Nano eyes western markets

The Nano micro car sells for the equivalent of around $2770 in India, making it the world’s cheapest production car. However that price could rise for a new model Tata is talking about taking into the US and Europe.

Tata chairman Ratan Tata told industry journal Automotive News he plans to launch the Nano in the US within three years, and will follow with a venture into European markets. The Nano was originally designed to compete in the Indian market against scooters and motorcycles, but relatively higher prices compared to two-wheel rivals has seen just 175,000 sales to India’s population of 1.2 billion.

Launched in 2009, the Nano uses a range of cost-cutting measures to keep the price down. The boot doesn't open – you access it by folding the rear seats down from inside the car -- there is no power steering (deemed unnecessary because of its light weight), a single windscreen wiper, one side mirror instead of two and three nuts instead of four or five on the wheels.

There is no airbag or ABS and the tiny 624cc two-cylinder rear-mounted engine puts out just 24kW and 48Nm with a claimed economy of less than 4.0 litres per 100km. The Nano has a four-speed manual transmission, driving the rear wheels.

In the Indian home market there is a mid-specced model with air-conditioning while the luxury LX adds power windows and central locking. The models being developed for export markets are expected to be slightly larger with a bigger three-cylinder engine, ABS and at least two airbags to meet safety regulations.

Tata’s plans for export are for the moment looking only at left-hand drive markets, so it’s unlikely we’ll see the Nano in Australian showrooms – even if it passed Australia’s fairly stringent design and safety regulations.