Well, Ratan Tata did deliver on his promise. Whether the car’s a success or not will yet be seen…but one thing is that he has proved that it can be built. Most news sites are going ballistic about it and how it will ring the death-knell to the 800. The 800 however, already seemed to be dying with better looking and sportier versions like the Alto being available from the same manufacturer at a slightly higher price.
I would be more interested in the comparison of the Nano with an auto-rickshaw. Currently it costs like 1.2L for a good auto rickshaw. The Nano might cost something like 1.25L to 1.3L after taxes and everything. The plus is a much higher luggage space(nowhere have I seen any mention of the luggage space the nano offers, but am assuming it would be larger), a much more comfortable journey, and of course its a better option when it rains.
Being a 1L car, I think the first impression the car will make will be in the public transportation domain. I can foresee auto-rickshaw drivers switching to taxis which would be nanos. The cost will be higher than that of an auto per km. And well, that’s understandable. A rickshaw runs on LPG and the cost per km is something like 2 Rs. With a car it will be higher and close to Rs. 3. Adding investment cost and maintenance, am guessing it might be close to Rs.7 to Rs. 9 per km, or in short, between an auto and a taxi.
As for an average common man buying this, it would generally be those who can’t afford a good car and are in the < 10k per month income range, those who typically go for a used car. Those who earn more and can afford a new car will definitely go for an 800 or an alto at the basic, simply because a car is not just a vehicle for transport, but also a status symbol, not just in India, but everywhere. Someone parking a Nano will be smirked at by someone with an 800 or an Alto, who get the smirks from the Santros and WagonRs and so on, and I guess it might bode well for an 800 that there's a car now below it in the pecking order.
As for the market, it will at least prevent small car manufacturers from hiking the prices of their base models, at least in the near future. Eventually cars like the 800 will have to decide where they stand and whom they target. Those like the Santro, the Swift, the Getz etc have their own market and it is well over the 800 and the Alto. Those are not going to be much perturbed by the Nano.
The size of the car is pretty impressive, and is actually well suited for Indian roads and parking, almopst like the Smart. Looks, well, not exactly great. Its kinda similar to a Matiz (or the Spark, as it is known now). But its not bad either. But well, when a WagonR or a Santro can survive and flourish and when Suzuki was forced to launch an ugly version of their Zen, I guess in India ugly is in!
More pics of the car here.