India car boss Ratan Tata admits Tata Nano 'mistakes'

Ratan Tata with the Nano, Jan 2009
Image caption Chairman Ratan Tata launched the Tata Nano in January 2009

The head of India's Tata Group has admitted mistakes were made with the launch of the world's cheapest car but insisted the Tata Nano was not a flop.

Ratan Tata said the group "wasted an early opportunity", with inadequate advertising and dealerships.

The Nano was launched in 2009 to big orders but suffered from severe production, marketing and technical problems, including high-profile fires.

The price has also risen - to 140,000 rupees ($2,650) for the basic car.


Speaking at the Auto Expo show in Delhi, Ratan Tata said: "I don't think we were adequately ready with an advertising campaign or a dealer network.

"I don't consider it to be a flop. I consider that we have wasted an early opportunity."

The first batch of 100,000 Nanos was sold through a lottery, with demand exceeding supply.

But Mr Tata admitted that after that "we never really got our act together".

Moving the production plant from one state to another was particularly traumatic.

Sales dwindled to a low of 509 in November 2010. However, last month's total of 7,466 was 29% up on the same month the previous year, although still well down on the 25,000 a month the firm once expected.

Mr Tata said the "poor man's car" tag was a "stigma" that needed to be undone. He wants the car pitched as "an affordable, all-weather, family car".

He added: "I believe that we will see a resurrection of this product as we move forward."

Ratan Tata will retire in December as head of Tata, to be replaced by Cyrus Mistry.

The new boss will face competition in the cheap car market - this week Bajaj Auto unveiled the RE60, a 200cc car it says will do 35km (22 miles) per litre of fuel and emit just 60 grams of carbon dioxide per km.

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