The Tata Nano was supposed to be the Model T for India’s 21st-century car-buying masses, but lackluster sales have knocked it down a peg or two. It’s not about to get any better, either, now that the Nano has a new competitor, a tiny hatchback called the Bajaj RE60.
While the RE60 is broadly the same size as the Nano, Bajaj Auto isn’t exactly targeting the Nano at its direct competition. Similar to Tata’s original goal for the Nano, the RE60 is supposed to be an alternative to overloading a motorcycle, or India’s ubiquitous three-wheeled tuk-tuk rickshaw.
Power comes from a rear-mounted, water-cooled, 200-cc single-cylinder engine that promises 20 horsepower. That might be 18 fewer horses than the Nano, but the RE60 checks in at just 880 pounds, some 440 pounds less than a Nano. Bajaj alleges the car should return about 83 miles per gallon, emit 60 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer, and top out at 43 miles per hour.
Considering that Bajaj sells more three-wheel taxis than any other company, the RE60 looks to be a step in the four-wheeled direction for the company. And hedging the RE60’s bets as a taxi (the show car even included a hard-wired fare meter on board) may be a way for the tiny car to succeed if consumers don’t bite. Tata Nano sales have grown slowly since launch, but have not exploded the way its manufacturer had hoped. In December 2011, Tata sold 7,466 Nanos, less than one-third the 25,000 units per month it had once predicted.
Whether or not the RE60 will suffer the same fate remains to be seen, but its commercial aspirations certainly suggest it may find a little more success in India than Tata’s offering. Expect production to begin within the next few months, after Bajaj determines the extent of its cooperation with Renault-Nissan, who formed a partnership with Bajaj in 2010 to create an ultra-low cost car.
Thanks to: Motor Trend