Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Today, there are two Tata Nano motor cars in Jamaica. By Friday, there should be 10 more of what has been touted as the world's cheapest new car in the island. And by December 15 Joe Ferreira, director of new markets for Nano importers Metis Motors, hopes to begin handing over the cars to customers.
By February 2013, he said, "we should start building up stock".
However, despite reporting strong interest in some quarters, especially from organisations with large fleets which have to navigate heavy traffic, Ferreira knows that he will have to overcome some purchaser resistance. "A lot of people are skeptical, will always love bigger and better. I hear people complain it does not have a nose," he said.
But it is in that very truncated bonnet where the Tata Nano pins its greatest hopes of winning over a Jamaican public which must balance its love of flash, features and fast with high - and often rising - gas prices. The rear-engined Nano takes in its fuel at the front, then miserly sips it to return a loudly and proudly claimed 60 miles per gallon, or 26 kilometres per litre.
Another gas claim is emblazoned on the orange Tata Nano which, along with a white model, heralds the hoped for Tata takeover of the mini people-mover market. Ferreira told Automotives that not only was he at the wheel when the Nano did the Kingston to Montego Bay journey on $820 fuel, but he was pushing the car hard as well, getting traffic tickets in the process.
Ferreira said he will be bringing in only the top-level Nano, which comes with a Boss radio with options for better speakers, possible upgrades including Bluetooth and a DVD player. The 635 pound, four-door vehicle is powered by a two-cylinder, 625cc engine, Ferreira quick to point out the spacious rear seating, high roofline and just over eight inches of ground clearance. The Nano has central locking and the two front windows are powered, but the steering is manual.
In terms of innovation, Ferreira pointed to the 31 patents which the Tata Nano boasts.
Initially, the Brazilian by birth said, the Nano should have been introduced to the Dominican Republic first. However, due to social instability there Jamaica was chosen for the Nano's Caribbean debut. He said Trinidad and the Dominican Republic - not necessarily in that order - will get the Nano next.
He points out that in terms of units, Nano sales in the Caribbean market are negligible to Tata, which is seeing great returns in home country India. However, part of his pitch was that as tourism is strong in the region, there is potential for the car to be exposed to people from all over the world.
Introducing a car to the market is one thing. Ensuring that it can be maintained is another. Ferreira said "we are following the new laws. We must bring in 10 per cent (of the number of individual cars imported) worth of parts and keep in stock". He is using a model of teaming up with garages at major urban centres across the island to service the Nano, starting with Fenton's Garage in St Andrew. He named two other major garages which are about to sign on to the project.
The Tata Nano comes with a 25,000 kilometre or two-year warranty, whichever comes first, and sells for $940,000, a discount programme depending on the payment arrangement bringing the price down to $893,000.00. Financing is available through some institutions, Ferreria conceding that there are some organisations which will not take on the Nano.
And working out one possibility for monthly payments, Ferreira said, "At $14,000, it brings the Nano to the lives of people who would never own a car."