BYD (Build Your Dreams) Auto showed its E6 electric sedan at the Detroit Auto Show and indicated that it may begin marketing the vehicle in the U.S. later this year. Great. A car that promises 250 miles on a single charge is more interesting if it’s available globally – not just in the world’s largest automobile market.
With that somewhat parochial thought in mind, it was logical to focus on prospects for a U.S. launch of Tata Motors’ $2,500 Nano, which was unveiled at the Detroit Science Center last week. But executives from Tata Technologies, the Tata unit that helped create the Nano and contributed to 18 patents for its design, declined to speculate on a U.S. launch date or to ballpark a U.S. retail price range.
That’s okay. The version on display wasn’t designed for the U.S. market. It was designed for sale in India to families that would otherwise travel on a motorbike, and that presents a very large opportunity in India and elsewhere. Rides weren’t available, but the car looks good, has an attractive if suitably modest interior, and a surprising amount of room in the back seat. Time will tell if the $2,500 Nano succeeds in India.
Tata plans to launch versions of the Nano in Europe, where its price is expected to be nearer $8,000, and in the U.S. The firm created the Indian car from the ground up, without reference to any earlier model. Can it leverage its experience with the Nano, as well as its experience in contract engineering design and product lifecycle management work for major automakers and tier one suppliers, to create competitive cars for European and U.S. markets? It’s easy to say no by focusing on what the current product lacks, and accomplishments to date are no guarantee of future success, but it seems to me that it’s way too early to count them out.