Updated October 31st, 2023 at 15:29 IST

Here is why the world's cheapest car ran out of fuel

The Nano made its debut in January 2008, marketed as the "world's cheapest car" with an initial price of just Rs 1 lakh, approximately $1,300 at the time.

Reported by: Tanmay Tiwary
Tata Nano | Image:Tata

Automaker Tata Motors announced on Monday that it has secured an arbitral award worth Rs 766 crore. The sum is intended to compensate for the capital investment losses incurred in the halted Singur manufacturing plant, which was originally established to produce the iconic Nano cars.

The path of the Nano, despite being hailed as an automotive revolution, faced numerous challenges and twists. The Nano made its debut in January 2008, marketed as the "world's cheapest car" with an initial price of just Rs 1 lakh, approximately $1,300 at the time. This audacious endeavour, the brainchild of Ratan Tata, was envisioned as a symbol of hope for the countless Indians who relied on motorcycles to transport their families.


To meet its ambitious goal, the Nano had to make significant sacrifices. It stripped away non-essential features, minimised the use of steel in its construction, and relied on cost-effective labour. These cost-cutting measures led to peculiar characteristics like a single wiper blade, one wing mirror, and only three lug nuts per wheel.

Tata Motors set lofty expectations from the start, projecting annual production figures of 250,000 units, envisioning a surge in the Indian car market. However, these aspirations were never fully realised. In its initial two years, the Nano managed to sell just 70,000 units, falling short of the revolutionary impact that had been hoped for.


One critical blow to the Nano's prospects was the Tata Nano Singur controversy. In 2006, Tata Motors announced that the Nano would be manufactured in Singur, West Bengal. Local farmers protested the acquisition of their land for the new factory. This led to delays and eventually a decision to relocate the manufacturing to Gujarat, causing further setbacks.

Price-related challenges also haunted the Nano. Despite being marketed as a car for the masses, the promised price was only accessible to the very first customers. By 2017, the basic Nano was priced at around Rs 215,000 due to rising material costs. This price, while still competitive compared to some international models, remained relatively high for the average Indian industrial worker or farmer.


The Nano's journey was further troubled by safety concerns and changing consumer preferences, leading to sluggish sales and accumulating financial losses. In 2017, Tata Motors, driven by an "emotional commitment," pledged to keep the production going, but the end was looming.

Finally, in May 2018, the production of the world's cheapest car came to an end as Tata Motors decided to discontinue it. The Sanand Plant, which had once given birth to the Nano, transitioned to producing other hatchbacks like the Tiago and Tigor, marking the end of an era.


The Tata Nano, originally seen as a symbol of audacious innovation and hope, had reached the end of its road. Its journey, from being a groundbreaking concept to becoming a footnote in automotive history, was a tale of audacity, dreams, controversies, and an ultimate reality check. The world's cheapest car had proven that even with the best intentions, not all dreams can be realised on the road.


Published October 31st, 2023 at 15:29 IST