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IndiaInc: Tata to bring Nano to America

A $7,000 car and a massive increase in R&D spending to make Tata Motors a global competitor
Nano recallEnlarge
Shown here at the March 23, 2009 launch in Mumbai, the Tata Nano created a media sensation. But the world's cheapest car has been plagued with problems from the beginning. Now Tata Motors is recalling about 140,000 Nanos so that the starter can be replaced -- a move that may cost the company as much as $22 million. (Ritam Banerjee/AFP/Getty Images)

Tata Motors is gearing up to bring the Nano to America, and ramping up research and development spending in a bid to become a global competitor.

To paraphrase the old Oldsmobile tagline: It's not your father's Yugo.

Unlike the doomed Yugoslavian export brought to the US by Malcolm Bricklin, the Nano launched in the US within the next two or three years will be a new-and-improved version of the so-called "world's cheapest car," according to an interview with Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata in the Sydney Herald.

It will be slightly wider than the present vehicle, fitted with modern safety features such as an advanced braking system, and an electric version will also be available. ''It will be a full car,'' the paper quoted Tata as saying. ''$7000 is still an attractive price.''

But that's not the end of the planned overseas forays for Tata, who bought Jaguar Land Rover from Ford Motor Co. for $2.3 billion in 2008, according to Forbes India.

Though Tata Motors still relies on engines purchased from Ford to power its JLR vehicles -- which suggests it is still pretty far behind the global leaders in technology -- the company has set up a research and development team of some 5,500 engineers in India and across the world to shore up its weaknesses. And Tata Motors and JLR are already collaborating on engines with a smaller displacement than JLR's much admired 5-liter workhorse.

And that's not all. Forbes writes:

"The plethora of work is astounding: From electric vehicles, fuel cells, engine development, hybrid technology to battery research or even simple things like a remote-controlled door opening device or boot lid or a smart starter motor or just a glass winding mechanism that’s more efficient. So there’s an electric car undergoing field trials on the streets in the UK. An electric version of the Ace commercial vehicle is also on trial. A parallel hybrid bus trial is now on in Mumbai, plus a fuel cell bus that was debuted as a concept at the Auto Expo in January. Work is also on to meet new Indian emission norms like BS IV and BS V."

A further drift of innovation from America to India?

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/india/tata-nano-america-launch