In a land where super-sizing and upgrades rule, a no-frills car with an engine not much bigger than a snowblower's might seem a bit out of place.
Enter the diminutive Tata Nano, a $2,500 car unveiled by India's Tata Motors last March. The car, set to make its official North American debut at the Detroit Science Center later in the week, stopped first at Judson University in Elgin Monday night.
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Only 10 feet long and 5 feet wide, the Nano was driven through the double doors of the Harm A. Weber Academic Center, said Kevin Noe, Tata Technologies' chief marketing officer. Noe is a 1979 Judson alum and serves as a university trustee.
The four-door, four-passenger car features a 2-cylinder, 0.6-liter engine that maxes out at 65 mph and gets around 56 miles per gallon, according to the company. It passed European crash tests over the summer but has received mixed reviews by U.S. auto critics.
How is it so cheap?
The base model has no power steering, air bags, heat, air conditioning, radio, cup holders or power windows. There's only one windshield wiper and one side-view mirror.
Noe helped arrange the car's stop at the school on its way to the "Better Innovation" event in Detroit because Judson is getting ready to feature an entrepreneurial studies program and the event has the potential to spark some interest. Additionally, he said, students will likely be a target demographic as Tata markets the car in America.
The cost of transporting the Nano from Bombay to London to Chicago and then driving it to Detroit is about three times more than the car itself, Noe said. But before the Nano ever makes its way to the Detroit Auto Show itself - expected in 2013 - bank on a number of changes to be made to ensure that it meets American safety and emission standards.
Along with added features, Noe said, Tata officials expect the price to see a bit of an increase when it comes to the U.S. "I can guarantee you it will cost more than $2,500," he said. "How much more, I don't know."