Now on sale: The Tata Nano

At about $2,000 apiece, the price of the teensy and modestly appointed four-passenger car seems to be right for some Indian consumers.

Tata Motors has begun taking orders for its Nano minicar.

The Indian automaker on Thursday opened up its booking system for the high-profile Nano, which it has pitched as the "people's car"--a first automobile for families that, until now, have had to crowd onto a scooter. There are only approximately nine vehicles per 1,000 people in India, according to the Reuters news agency.

Tata Nano
The deluxe version of the Tata Nano (photo from January 2008). Tata Motors

Bookings will close in just more than two weeks, on April 25. The company had made application forms for bookings available at the beginning of the month and said the response has been "very encouraging."

Priced starting at about $2,000 for the standard version, the Tata Nano is a very modest machine. It's about 10 feet long, weighing in at about 1,300 pounds, and Tata says it can "comfortably" seat four adults. The top speed for the car, which has a two-cylinder, 624-cc, rear-mounted engine, is about 65 miles per hour. The gas mileage is said to be about 56 miles per gallon.

Prospective buyers seemed most attracted by the low price (only about three times that of a low-end scooter), according to a Reuters report.

"I have experienced other foreign small cars," Denis Quadros, 42, who owns a Maruti Wagon R, told Reuters. "They are expensive to maintain and consume a lot of fuel. But look at Nano's mileage, and we know Tata cars are cheaper on maintenance."

Tata plans to begin delivering the cars in July.

But even then, there could be a long wait for those who've booked a Nano order. At the end of June, Tata plans to announce the allotment of the first 100,000 cars, as determined by a computerized random selection. News agencies reported that it will likely take Tata more than a year to fill the 100,000 orders.

About the author

Jonathan Skillings is managing editor of CNET News, based in the Boston bureau. He's been with CNET since 2000, after a decade in tech journalism at the IDG News Service, PC Week, and an AS/400 magazine. He's also been a soldier and a schoolteacher, and will always be a die-hard fan of jazz, the brassier the better.

 

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