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Tata Competitors Flock to Study Nano Design

Tata Competitors Flock to Study Nano Design

 |  by Levent Ozler
a stream of executives and engineers has been visiting Tata Technologies in Novi, Mich., to see the Nano, the 10-foot-long, five-passenger car the engineering consultant helped its affiliate Tata Motors develop.

Tata Tech has also lent the car to manufacturers so more engineers can get a close look.

"It's a very useful calling card," said Tata Tech engineering and design chief Kevin Fisher.

Industry veterans don't believe it's possible to make a $2,500 car until they walk around the Nano.

Nearly 2 feet shorter than a Mini Cooper, Nano was developed as India's version of the Ford Model T, the affordable car that put a country on wheels.

The visitors don't necessarily plan to build a car for the Nano's price. They want to apply Tata's "frugal engineering" philosophy to their product lines.

"It's a thought process," Fisher said. "You start from scratch and ask, 'What do I really need?'"

Nano development began when Tata Chairman Ratan Tata decided the company that bears his name should provide a better, safer alternative to the motorbikes that frequently carry families in India.

"Ratan Tata said, 'If we start from zero and build up, how much can we get for $2,000?'" said Kevin Power, a manager at Tata Tech.

"That was the philosophical basis of the design.

Other automakers tend to start with an existing vehicle and take stuff out to reduce the price."

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