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Tata will redo Nano for the U.S.

Mon, 15 Oct 2012

A redesigned version of India's no-frills Nano minicar will come to the United States in three years, said Ratan Tata, the billionaire boss of that country's giant Tata Group.

"The U.S. is a very enticing market," Tata said in an interview. "We are redesigning the Nano for both Europe and the U.S."

He said the new Nano will be far more sophisticated than the ultra-cheap model that has flopped in India despite a world of hype.

It will get a bigger engine and "more bells and whistles," including such features as power steering and traction control. Tata said it will be priced below $10,000.

What the 74-year-old industrialist did not say is how he intends to sell it here. Tata has no U.S. retail network.

The existing Nano, an egg-shaped four-seater, was developed for India as an alternative to scooters. At 122 inches long, it is nearly two feet shorter than a Mini, and it has a two-cylinder, rear-mounted engine with 37 hp. Tata, whose company owns Jaguar and Land Rover, conceived the Nano as the world's cheapest car. It went on sale in 2009 with a price tag of about $2,500.

He said a car priced below $10,000 would have appeal in the United States.

"The Smart and the Fiat 500 have high sticker prices, and people buy them because they are small cars," said Tata at the opening of a Jaguar Land Rover dealership here. "But everyone knows you put a lot of money into it. We hope that the sub-$10,000 car has appeal."

Tata said it was "too premature," to talk about a U.S. sales channel for the Nano.

"We have to give a lot of thought to how we would distribute the car," he said

Andy Goss, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover North America, said there have been no discussions about using Jaguar Land Rover dealers to sell the Nano.

By Diana T. Kurylko- Automotive News