Monday, June 22, 2009

Shifting Gears

Go ahead and chuckle, sneer, and guffaw while pointing at the diminutive and ridiculously low-priced Nano automobile being made in India. We can sit up high and superior in our massive SUVs knowing it would be easy as pie to crush a Nano – just like rolling over a Bud can. But the facts remain:

• Entrepreneurs in India, not America, designed a car that bested 700 entries to win the Wall Street Journal Technology
Innovation Award in the 'Transportation' category.
• The $2,500 window sticker is roughly equivalent to the price of a DVD player option in a luxury Western car.
• Some people just want and need transportation. They just wish to get from Point A to B, thus there is demand.
• The Nano will not help its owner compensate for inadequacies or express stereotypic manliness.

The Nano means more than low-cost wheels. It reflects a shift in thinking that the big three in Detroit can’t see. The Nano’s innovative modular design means it can be shipped and assembled anywhere. Through “open distribution,” Tata Motors envisions a bunch of entrepreneurs could establish an assembly operation and Tata would train their people and oversee their quality assurance. Essentially, they become satellite assembly operations. Plus, customizing cars to individual needs becomes possible and easy. The consumer becomes part of the design process. Sad news for those who enjoy getting stuck with and paying for a package that may include power sideview mirrors, burl-oak dashboards, and a moon roof you’ll never use.

Nano reflects a spirit of innovation – a willingness to do more with less, increased modularity (both in products and processes), and paying attention to the needs of the consumer.



  1. Dammit! Now I can no longer gloat about buying my used car with 125,000 miles for only $3,000!

  2. I wonder what influence the 'saturation factor' has in the US market? I mean, in a land with as many cars as individuals, does something like this have the same appeal it carries in markets where car ownership remains elusive?