Turns out the Nano was just too cheap to survive Pic. SUPPLIED
Turns out the Nano was just too cheap to survive Pic. SUPPLIED

It was billed as the world's cheapest car and shaped like a jelly bean, but after a bumpy 10-year ride India's Tata Nano is nearing the end of the road.

Tata Motors, India's top car maker, says that it could stop manufacturing and selling the vehicle from April 2020 due to new safety and emissions rules that would require major investment.

"We may not invest in upgrading all the products and Nano is one of them," Mayank Pareek, president of passenger vehicles at Tata, told reporters in Hyderabad.

Tata launched the Nano, a compact four or five-door hatchback, with great fanfare in 2009 when its first edition went on the market for around $2,200 (R29,500). It was the brainchild of the former boss of the tea-to-steel Tata Group conglomerate Ratan Tata, who wanted a budget car for the masses. 

Tata, now 81, was sure that aspirational lower-class Indian families would trade in their two-wheel motorcycles for the prestige, and comfort, of owning a car. It quickly became known around the globe as "the world's cheapest car". It was a tag that would prove to be the vehicle's undoing, however, as sales of the car failed to take off.

"It was a marketing failure," Hormazd Sorabjee, the editor of Autocar India magazine, told AFP.

"The car was positioned as a poor man's car and India is very status conscious. The whole thing about it being an alternative to a motorcycle was great as a concept but not as a marketing slogan," he added. The car was also plagued by safety concerns after a number of high-profile cases of engines bursting into flames. Tata, which owns Jaguar Land Rover, had initially hoped to sell 25,000 units a month but within a couple of years it was shifting just a few hundred.

In 2013 Tata Motors unveiled a new version in a bid to reverse the sales slump but the following year the Nano and several other small models from India failed independent crash tests.

A spokesperson for Tata Motors told AFP that a final decision on whether to upgrade the Nano so that it meets the new regulations coming into force i 2020, or kill it off, had yet to be taken. But Indian media said Pareek's comments, carried by the Press Trust of India news agency, sounded the death knell for the Nano.


Surf’s up: the beach buggy’s back

True to the original Beetle-based versions, this modern sun-loving buggy will have no fixed roof or conventional doors. Pic: SUPPLIED
True to the original Beetle-based versions, this modern sun-loving buggy will have no fixed roof or conventional doors. Pic: SUPPLIED

Volkswagen has revealed teaser pics of a new electrically-powered concept beach buggy it will reveal at next month’s Geneva motor show. VW’s new modular electric drive matrix (MEB) platform is expected to yield a wide variety of VW ID electric cars not only for large-scale production but for the development of low-volume niche cars like this proposed buggy.

The new MEB chassis is envisioned with similar flexibility as that of the original Beetle chassis which allowed for creative – and sometimes exclusive – custom solutions. Based on historical predecessors that were underpinned by a Beetle chassis, the buggies were a big hit in sun-soaked Carlifornia and South African alike, where owners of vehicles were still allowed to romp freely on beaches.

True to the original style, this modern buggy will have no fixed roof or conventional doors. It will be fitted with oversized wheels under big arches, with open side sills. “A buggy is more than a car. It is vibrancy and energy on four wheels,” states Klaus Bischoff, Head Designer at Volkswagen. “These attributes are embodied by the new e-buggy, which demonstrates how a modern, nonretro interpretation of a classic can look and, more than anything else, the emotional bond that electric mobility can create,” he says.It’s not known whether the concept will go into production. The 89th Geneva motor show takes place from March 7 to 17.


Mahindra pimps up its Pik Up

Mahindra joins the blacked-out bakkie trend with black off-road alloy wheels, a dark nudge bar and a dark roll bar. Pic: SUPPLIED
Mahindra joins the blacked-out bakkie trend with black off-road alloy wheels, a dark nudge bar and a dark roll bar. Pic: SUPPLIED

Mahindra South Africa has introduced a limited Karoo edition of its S10 Pik Up, offering customers the choice of either a cosmetic package or colour-coded canopy for an extra R5,000.

The Mahindra Pik Up S10 Karoo Edition is an encore to the special S6 Karoo Edition, which was launched in December and which sold out very quickly, says Rajesh Gupta, CEO of Mahindra SA.

Customers who choose the Karoo Edition cosmetic package will get their bakkie with blacked out off-road alloy wheels, a dark nudge bar and a dark branded roll bar.

The package also includes a tonneau cover, flared rear wheel arches that complement the front arches, and a wind deflector kit on the front and rear windows. The special edition is available in either white or silver. The Karoo edition is also identifiable by a larger decal between the wheel arches.

Alternatively, for the same price buyers can opt for a white or silver colour-coded Beekman luxury canopy. The standard S10 Pik Up comes standard with features that include satellite navigation, cruise control and a multifunction steering wheel, before the addition of the Karoo trim.

The Karoo Edition is priced at R337,999 for the 4x2 Double Cab Pik Up and R368,999 for the 4x4 version. Both models are sold with a four-year/120,000km warranty and a five-year/90,000km service plan.

"Even with the additional specifications, the S10 Pik Up Karoo Edition is still one of the most affordable quality double cab bakkies on the market. And with our South African plant now fully operational, we can ensure that every Pik Up is perfectly suited to local market needs," says Gupta.

Mahindra opened its KwaZulu-Natal assembly facility in May 2018 and has since produced the entire range of Pik Up models locally. While it has reached full production capacity for the first phase of the facility, it has the capacity to offer unique and custom models for South African bakkie buyers.


Passat not being killed off

VW quells rumours that the Passat is being killed off. Pic: SUPLLIED
VW quells rumours that the Passat is being killed off. Pic: SUPLLIED

German media reports over the Passat’s demise have forced Volkswagen on to the back foot to defend its big-selling mid-sized car. According to news stories last week in Germany’s Bild newspaper, Volkswagen would either shelve the Passat altogether or move its production to a lower volume plant in favour of electric-car production.

However, Volkswagen has fumed at the suggestion, just as it is about to show the facelifted version of the current Passat. “We’ve had some disappointing news regarding the Passat, so we’d like to set that straight,” a spokesman said at a secret viewing of the facelift in Hamburg last week.

“The press tells me the Passat will be discontinued due to changes in the automotive industry and Volkswagen is toying with turning Emden into an EV-only plant.

“Let me tell you right now, we are not going to discontinue the Passat.”

While living in the middle of one of the segments hardest hit by the continued rise of the compact and mid-sized crossover and SUV segments, it continues to be a serious player for Volkswagen. It comfortably headed home the EU markets for wagon sales, with 129,891 cars sold last year and chipped in another 53,358 with the sedan.

“There is no crisis for the Passat. There’s just the WLTP (the new test and emissions procedure that many carmakers, including Volkswagen, found tough to certify its cars for),” its spokesman said. “We’ve sold just under 30 million Passats. It’s the most important family car and compact executive car in the world.” It plans to show its 30 millionth Passat, planned to be a plug-in hybrid GTE, at next month’s Geneva motor show.

The eighth-generation Passat was launched in SA in 2015 and sells in four derivatives.