Friday, February 6, 2009

You can pay Rs 70,000, book a Nano by Feb-end

Tata Motors’ Nano, the small car seen as a symbol of India’s expertise in frugal engineering, is likely to be launched on March 3. Billed as the world’s cheapest, the small car’s first recipients may be celebrities, including political leaders, social workers, sports stars and film stars.

Government officials said the company had chosen March 3 as the launch date because it is the birth anniversary of Tata Group founder, Jamsetji Tata. However, the details had not yet been firmed up.

Bookings for the Rs 1 lakh Nano will begin by February end. The booking amount for the world’s cheapest car will be around Rs 70,000.

But, even after paying 70% of the car’s total cost, the wait could be quite long.

Sources familiar with development said that all dealers of Tata Motors and branches of the State Bank of India (SBI) will accept bookings simultaneously across the country in the next three weeks. SBI will initially engaged 100 branches and take the number eventually to 1,000.

Tata Motors and SBI have entered into an exclusive arrangement for the Nano car. SBI will not only act as sole lender to buyers but also offer its branches for bookings.

As Tata Motors is eyeing initial bookings of over one lakh cars, the company hopes to collect around Rs 700 crore in just a few weeks. Allotment will be made through a draw and, going by projections even during this recession, those at the top of the draw would have the choice of becoming proud owners of the first Nanos, or getting a premium in the black market.

Nano would be launched in March 2009 with cars rolling out from the Pantnagar plant in Uttranchal. This plant can produce only 3,000 cars per month — just a fraction of the demand.

Things will ease only after the cars roll out of Sanand plant near Ahmedabad which will have an initial capacity of producing 2,50,000 cars per annum. But the Gujarat plant will take at least one year to start production.

Nano’s launch had been scheduled for 2008 but plans got derailed when Tatas were forced out of Singur in West Bengal.

When contacted, a spokesperson for Tata Motors said, "We have not announced an official date or any marketing plans so far."

Sources in the government, however, said: “The Tatas are planning to give Nano to celebrities initially. Senior Tata officials had discussed this at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit recently.”

Those likely to figure in the list include President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Opposition Leader LK Advani.

The company may also reserve a Nano for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, where it was to be made initially. Others likely to get it are sports stars like Sania Mirza, Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Still others may be those who endorse Tata brands, like actors Aamir Khan, Ajay Devgan and Kajol.

Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, who was instrumental in attracting the Nano plant to Gujarat after it failed to take off in West Bengal owing to political controversy over land acquisition, may also be given the car.

"This marketing strategy will help the Tatas brand the common man's car as people's car. It will be a car for the masses," sources said.

However, the masses may have to brave a waiting period as Tata Motors dealers will start taking bookings for the car before the Sanand factory reaches full production. The booking amount is likely to be Rs 70,000 a car.

The standard model will be available for Rs 1 lakh and there will two other models priced at Rs 1.24 lakh and Rs 1.34 lakh.

Tata Motors had touched an intraday high of Rs 136.75 and an intraday low of Rs 132. At 10:14 am, the share was quoting at Rs 136.30, up Rs 5.20, or 3.97% on the NSE.

The company may roll out Nano on March 3, reports Business Line.
It was trading with volumes of 318,474 shares. Yesterday the share closed down 3.21% or Rs 4.35 at Rs 131.10.

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