Tata’s small one lakh car unveiling at Delhi Auto Expo : 660 cc, 60 mpg ?

Will it be a 660 cc rear-engine wonder that gives you 60 miles per gallon (about 25 km to a litre), a rear engine beauty that will become a landmark in car history as the original Volkswagen Beetle did?

 However disruptive the new small car from Tata Motors is going to be in social terms, at about Rs.100,000 (and an on-road price, the market thinks of about Rs.125,000) it is about to stir up lot of discussion when it is unveiled at the Delhi Auto Expo, by Ratan Tata.

There are reports in the international media today (the New York Times has one filed from India), including graphics, indicating that the small car will have a top speed of 75 miles per hour and an acceleration performance of 0 to 60 miles per hour in 21 seconds. (Picture below is of the standard version, the 100,000 rupee car unveiled on Thursday at the Auto Expo).

picture courtesy Tata Motors Website

The cost reduction strategies, according to these reports appear to lie in transmission design (continuous variable transmission which is lighter than manual or automatic for a rear-mounted engine), wheel bearings that are good enough upto 45 mph but start wearing out quickly at higher speeds, front luggage compartment holding battery, windshield water bottle, and providing room for a single suitcase, single windshield wiper, analogue speedometer, odometer and fuel gauge.

Extensive use of plastic, which has already been reported by the media, is another cost saving feature that will naturally help with fuel efficiency too due to weight reduction.

As a car at this price point is bound to do, the Tata car does away with not just the radio, but more complex features like emission control, anti-lock brakes, air bags and very importantly, side beams that are important in accidents to provide a modicum of safety.

The logic would seem to be that the small car will be a replacement for two-wheelers for many, and will therefore be a city ride-about, rather than a vehicle for longer journeys. Given the Indian conditions, that argument would appear to be too stretched. In semi-urban markets, the journeys are indeed long and the car’s sales will move to those places sooner than later.

For now, the excitement is about the new upcoming people’s car. Check back for more details tomorrow.

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