Tata Phasing Out Ultra-Low-Cost Nano Minicar

Tata Motors Ltd. is phasing out its 10-year-old Nano, often billed as the world’s least expensive car.

Unveiled in India in 2008, the $1,900 Nano was a marvel of low-cost engineering. But the car, now base-priced at $2,900, was marred by a delayed production launch, followed by crash safety concerns and highly publicized reports of fires.

Annual global demand for the car never approached the 1 million units Tata anticipated. Monthly sales peaked at about 9,000 units in 2010 but have steadily declined since then.

Last month Tata produced only one Nano, compared with a paltry 275 units in June 2017. Sales plummeted 85% through the first six months of the year to 205 units, including just three deliveries in June.

Tata says the Nano won’t last beyond 2019 without new investment. But the car appears far more likely to simply go out of production this year. Plans to relaunch the Nano this year as an all-electric model called Neo also have stalled.

Tata touted the Nano a low-cost step beyond motorbikes for India’s emerging middle class. But analysts say the car flopped in that role because consumers didn’t want to be branded “cheap” by buying one.