Mr Ratan Tata intended the Nano to be a people’s car, a car that would put two wheeler riders onto four roads. While that’s a vision that hasn’t yet been realized, the Nano could still be a car of the people, this time by replacing Autorickshaws in the frontier state of Jammu and Kashmir. According to a report carried by GreaterKashmir, the State Transport Department of J&K is said to be mulling over the idea of the Tata Nano replacing the autorickshaw in specific areas of Srinagar and Jammu, the summer and winter capital cities of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
As of now, the State Transport Department has received applications from interested cab operators, seeking permission to run Nano as a replacement to the ubiquitous autorickshaw. The State Transport Department has taken this proposal a step further by asking private cab operators to submit detailed statements of their willingness to run such a service, along with the terms of service. Notably, the Nano if pressed into the urban transport sector of J&K, will charge the same fare as that of an autorickshaw, making it a very attractive proposition for the general public and tourists.
Given that the Nano comes with protection from the elements as it is a fully sealed car and with additional safety of four wheels, the car definitely trumps the autorickshaws on the safety, weather protection and comfort aspects. Given that the CNG powered Nano is just around the corner, the fuel economy and running costs of the Nano is expected to rival that of the autorickshaws, with the initial purchase price of both these vehicles being more or less the same. For now, the Tata Nano replacing Autorickshaws in Jammu & Kashmir remains on the paper.
If indeed the Nano begins replacing the ubiquitous autorickshaw in J&K, expect a similar story to pan out in other states of India as well. Tata Motors would be more than a bit worried as the Nano replacing the Autorickshaw would undermine the positioning of the car as the Nano already is said to suffer from the image problem of being the “cheapest” set of four wheels that money can buy. So, the car replacing the autorickshaw can only exacerbate the image problem that the Nano has been facing for a while now, more so since a car is a symbol of aspiration/status in India, than just being a basic means of transport.
Also, Tata cars as a whole, suffer from the image of being cabs, as most of the best selling car models like the Indica, the Indigo and the Sumo are very popular in the taxi segment. Tata Motors for its part, is doing everything that it can to boost the image of the Nano. Stuff like television ads picturised with Indian youth taking to the Nano in a big way has been one such activity, to boost the Nano’s image amongst the younger car buyers. So, the Nano being used as an autorickshaw replacement might not be the best news for Tata Motors.