Thursday, January 6, 2011


To much fanfare in 2009, India—a hotbed of innovative products within reach of the poor like the $70 refrigerator and the $23 stove—introduced the world to the Tata Nano, a car retailing for a mere $2,200. A year and a half or so later, the Nano is basically considered a flop, with only a few hundred sold each month. Why aren't Indian drivers buying? One reason: The sticker price is too cheap.
The Washington Post explains:
For India's newly middle class, owning a car is the ultimate sign of status, and the Nano is synonymous with something cheap, said Ashish Masih, assistant editor of India's edition of What Car? Magazine.
"It's seen as a poor man's car," said Masih. "People don't want to take that image along with them. If they change that feeling, sales might pick up again."
While ego and image may be issues, safety is another: A half-dozen Nanos have caught on fire due to electrical and exhaust problems.
Still, for many consumers, the perception of the Nano as the "poor man's car" is more of a turnoff than any safety issues. One young Indian Nano disser quoted in the story says:
"I don't like the way the Nano looks to people and it's all about the look… I take the bike to work. But if I have to go hang out with my friends or go for a marriage, then I prefer a car. But I would prefer to sit at home if I have to go in a Nano."
The car manufacturer's problem may have as much to do with safety as with the personal insecurity of consumers it's trying to talk into buying Nanos. Somebody call a marketing pro. Or perhaps a psychologist.

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