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$2500 Tata Nano Car Unveiled in India 625

theodp writes "After months of rumors and tantalizing leaks, Tata Motors has finally unveiled the Tata Nano, its already legendary $2,500 car that promises to change the face of not only the Indian car market, but the global auto industry. The tiny car is a four-door, five-seat hatch, powered by a 30 hp engine that gets 54 miles per gallon."
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$2500 Tata Nano Car Unveiled in India

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  • Somewhere (Score:4, Funny)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:06AM (#21982910)
    Ralph Nader just fell out of his chair.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Garette ( 206805 )
      Would any one in the western world even think of buying this car? Even for driving in the cities/small towns?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ArcherB ( 796902 ) *
        Would any one in the western world even think of buying this car? Even for driving in the cities/small towns?

        I would if I never had to enter a freeway.

        Unfortunately, that's not the case.
        • Re:Somewhere (Score:4, Insightful)

          by smilindog2000 ( 907665 ) <bill@billrocks.org> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:21AM (#21983160) Homepage
          This car isn't designed for US roads, where it would be a menace. It's designed for Indian roads, which I've never seen, but which I suspect are similar to roads in Italy. Imagine a country where the roads are exactly like a huge Target parking lot. This is Italy. The Tata Nano would be perfect.
          • Re:Somewhere (Score:5, Informative)

            by johnlcallaway ( 165670 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:01AM (#21983822)
            I have seen the roads in India, specifically Chennai and Mumbai, and cars like this can improve safety. I saw many little 150cc motorcycles with 3, 4, even 5 people on them tooling around. Many of the bikes with only two people had a woman on the back with a sari, just waiting to get caught in the rear wheel. In fact, one of the accessories for Indian motorcycles is a sari guard, designed just for this purpose.

            These new cars are probably a lot safe than the auto-rickshaws running everywhere also.

            $2,500 may not seem much to a USA citizen, but it is a huge mount to many Indians. Motorycles are in the $700 range, so this is a 400-500 percent increase when factoring in taxes, etc. New USA motorcycles above 650cc are in the $5,000 and up range, new cars are only about 2.5 to 3 times more expensive.

            I applaud Tata motors for bringing to India an automobile that addresses safety and pollution concerns. Would I buy one?? If I could commute completely on city streets, which I can, then yes. You can't buy a used motorcycle of any size in the US for $2,500. Right now, I ride my motorcycle to work as often as I can (probably at least 4 out of 5 days), but even in Phoenix it rains sometimes. For those days, I have to depend on a truck that gets 20 mpg. What a waste for one person, I would rather look into one of these.

            And don't tell me about SmartCars. They cost over $20K. I'm not spending that for a car I would use 10 or 15 times a year.
            • Re:Somewhere (Score:4, Interesting)

              by argiedot ( 1035754 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:32AM (#21984336) Homepage
              Agreed! I live here in Chennai, and though I hate the fact that this car just means that there'll be much more traffic, this will be much safer than those two wheelers for those people and it'll be nice for all those people who crowd four people onto a motorbike (it's only twice the cost of a reasonably powerful bike). In that way it's nice. I wonder if there'll be an LPG version, I'm sure that'll be hugely popular if it does come because LPG is about twice the mileage per rupee.
            • by mechsoph ( 716782 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @12:04PM (#21984814)

              You can't buy a used motorcycle of any size in the US for $2,500.

              If you don't want "butt jewelry" as they call it, finding something under $2500 should be easy. Of course if you can only ride it half the year, it's probably not worth the extra cost of insurance, titling, and capital other than for sake of entertainment.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by bytesex ( 112972 )
            Depends on your version of Italy, I suppose. I've done 200 kph on the road from Firenze to Milano multiple times.
      • by SQLGuru ( 980662 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:17AM (#21983096) Journal
        I'd buy one for my commute. I have a Nissan Armada that I bought before gas prices went skyrocketing. I needed something with lots of space because of what I was carrying around and it was the roomiest. My needs have changed and I can't get out of it what I owe (who wants a gas hog these days). This car would be perfect for my commute (against traffic, 10 miles - takes less than 15 minutes each way even if I hit all of the lights) and would fit within my budget.

        I wouldn't even need any extra garage space.....I could just build a ramp up into my Armada and park it there.....three cars in a two car garage.

        • by bleh-of-the-huns ( 17740 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:25AM (#21983204)
          And when you go on holiday to another big city, you just pack the Tata into the back of your Armada and drive off :)
        • I'd buy one, too. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by maillemaker ( 924053 )
          I've been waiting for these little micro-cars to come out on the market. I had high hopes for the "Smart Car", but it's price is up around $12,000, and now they are down to 40MPG or so.

          I think we are entering a phase of American driving where people will have a tiny, one-person, gas-sipping commuter car to go to work every day, and a "family car" for long-distance travels on the weekends.

          And before everyone freaks out about the safety, I figure it's safer than a motorcycle.
          • by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:46AM (#21983574) Homepage
            Yes, but the mentality of a motorcycle driver is somewhat different from the the mentality of a car driver.

            A motorcycle driver *knows* that he will very likely die if he crashes at high speed. Car drivers typically don't tend to exercise the same amount of caution.

            Likewise, the handling and braking on a $2500 car can't be all that good. Pedestrian injuries seem extremely likely.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Lumpy ( 12016 )
          you will never be able to buy one. not in the USA. The auto lobbiests try their hardest to keep cars like that out of the states. they cite BS things like safety and other things.

          That's why it took the SMART almost 8 years to get into the USA. And after "Americanizing" it to make it "safe" (you Canadians and Europeans with your death traps!) it is no longer an affordable car but a expensive curiosity. The Smart can be purchased starting at $18,000 but mostly priced around $24,000 because the only mo
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            No the reason you won't see this model over here isn't because of the "auto lobby." It's because Americans aren't going to buy what is essentally a supercharged golf cart. It's has 2 cylinder, 30 HP --most US cars start at 240 HP, 4 cylinders and go up from there. This WOULD be a death trap on any road except maybe some Sunnydale retirement community where golf carts and electric wheel chairs are the only modes of transportion. This car will be fine for navigating narrow, crowded roads where you can't drive
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Smidge204 ( 605297 )
              Actually I'd say the starting point for US cars is around 100HP, 4 cylinder.

              Also worth mentioning is that, just because it supposedly gets 54 MPG, it still may not meet emissions requirements in most US states. The article does not say what emissions control systems, if any, are present. Catalytic converter? Crankcase ventilation? Fuel vapor recycling?

      • Re:Somewhere (Score:5, Informative)

        by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:22AM (#21983174)
        Having driven in India, I'm damned if I'd buy one there, either. I would not feel safe in anything less than a heavy tank.
        Rover's 'CityRover', (a re-badged Tata), was a failure in the UK, being panned for virtually everything.

        Still, some people in the West have bought the appalling 'Gee Whizz', which lets you have windscreen wipers, or lights, on a rainy night - but not both. It also virtually guarantees that you perish in the inevitable accident. If you want all-electric, get a Tesla, (rather pricy, though)

        The Smart car is much safer, but a commercial failure.

        BTW, the Beetle was not VW's idea - it was Hitler's. VW was created to produce the Beetle, which was designed by Dr. Porsche, (who also did other fun stuff like Panzers).
        • Safety is relative (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:56AM (#21983746)
          I'd be the same, but for the families that drive with 4 people on a motor scooter in India this is a vast improvement in safety.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Alioth ( 221270 )
          If the Smart Car is a commercial failure, I'd love to fail like them. Fail all the way to the bank!

          There are LOADS of Smart Cars around here. It's one of the more popular superminis. But then again, here is Rightpondia, where small cars traditionally sell very well anyway.
      • by arivanov ( 12034 )
        You cannot. It will not pass basic safety regs and more specifically the standard 35mph crash into a wall test.

        It is the same design as the G-Wiz (also Indian by the way). There is a big chunk of weight in the back which will simply collapse the entire frame on top of the passengers in a crash.

        There is a reason why the West has abandoned this design. Once upon a time many cars were made like this - Skoda, VW, Citroen, etc all had an engine in the back because you can have a very simple suspension and a very
    • Ralph Nader just fell out of his chair.
      No he wouldn't, because he would be wearing a seat belt. But, in reading the press released, it mentions "...with safety features such as crumple zones..." Where>! To have crumple zones, you actually some car around you.
  • by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:07AM (#21982926)
    Nice to see the VW idea (small affordable car for The People) keeping on. Also nice to see that the low horsepower is there, after all, horsepower is for those who can't keep their speeds up in the corners.
  • by Ilan Volow ( 539597 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:08AM (#21982950) Homepage
    When I hear the phrase "$2500 tatas", cars isn't the first thing that comes to mind.
  • Small potatoes.

  • by ciaohound ( 118419 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:14AM (#21983046)
    because the Nano's bra is the only one I have any chance of taking off. (No, I don't live in my parents' basement, I am married with young kids. The effect on one's sex life is the same.)
  • We already know that this car doesn't have things like power strearing but does it have things like air bags and ABS and meet the same saftey requirements for Europe (and anywhere else with strong safety requirements)

    and I dread to think what the build quality is like!
  • crumple... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by apodyopsis ( 1048476 )
    hmmm, thats a mighty small crumple zone that the passengers all sit in.

    no thanks, if I wanted a micro city car then I'd get a SMART. at least that has a safety tridon cage around the passengers, and does better mpg. it also performs surprisingly well on the safety test. though on an impact I would put my money on the other car...
    • Re:crumple... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Malc ( 1751 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:23AM (#21983182)
      And affordable is that to the people of India?
    • by scsirob ( 246572 )
      [quote]no thanks, if I wanted a micro city car then I'd get a SMART[/quote]
      Yes, but you have money, as you also have a computer, and time to spare to place comments on Slashot.
    • Re:crumple... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:24AM (#21984200) Homepage
      If you do some background reading (on your iMac, doubtless) one of the goals of this car is to provide an affordable (economically and environmentally) way of getting Indians off of motorbikes and spit-and-construction paper trikes into something that does at least have a crumple zone. Wait - you do live in India, right?
    • hit an object that doesn't crumple in a SMART car and the results will not be pretty.

      The key thing I remember from talking to a SMART distributor was how well it fared in accidents with OTHER cars. When some of us asked about fixed objects they kept going back to car versus car.

      A car with such a limited crumple zone as the SMART is going to transmit more energy to the occupants upon impact, there simply isn't enough car there to do anything.

      Besides the car was woefully underpowered requiring near lead foot
  • One that comes to mind is the Yugo. There have been several others all of which were underpowered and unsafe. There's just so much steel you can buy for that much money and just so much power you're going to get out of an over sized lawn mower engine. It could go a long way to solving India's population problems but there has to be better ways of dealing with that than road attrition.
    • by tgd ( 2822 )
      Get a billion people on the road and traffic will be so bad you won't be able to go fast enough to be injured in an accident.

      Actually I'd be curious to know what the number of traffic fatalities involving people IN a vehicle are in extremely dense cities...
  • by 8127972 ( 73495 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:21AM (#21983150)
    ... Besides being the largest car company in India according to this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tata_Motors [wikipedia.org]

    They are in the process of buying Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080103.wford0103/BNStory/Business [theglobeandmail.com]

    It also owns pieces of Daewoo to boot. They're not a small player. The big three might want to take notice.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kaizokuace ( 1082079 )
      Which big three are you talking about? Chrysler isn't even a player anymore (Mercedes could barely sell the company). Ford and GM mostly sell to Americans. I would say the big three now are Toyota, Nissan and Honda or Toyota, Honda and Fiat.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by R55 ( 601001 )
      They are not the largest, Maruti Suzuki is the largest car-maker in India.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jacquesm ( 154384 )
      They also are one of the worlds largest producers of steel.
  • by madhatter256 ( 443326 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:22AM (#21983162)
    I think this car would fare better in city markets. They can be used as taxis and replace the gas guzzling V8 Taxis that take up the road in NYC. With the size of the car being small, this can put more cars on the road.
  • Top speed (Score:3, Informative)

    by LotsOfPhil ( 982823 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:22AM (#21983176)
    Heard about this on NPR and they said the top speed is ~50 miles per hour.
  • I don't want to be the boob that gets seen in this thing.
  • There seems to be lots of hype about it being efficient with it capable of doing 54mpg, but...

    My BMW 320d Touring can do 57.6 mpg (combined cycle) according to the official figures (which is probably the same method that they came up with 54mpg). Since the Tato Nano should weigh so much less than my Beamer, I'd expect it to be more efficient, not less...

    I can't find any technical specs for the Nano anywhere to know how the 54mpg was measured, but even if it's in the urban cycle, the BMW does 46.7mpg, which
    • Only considerably...... how about the leather seat option alone being more expensive then the Tata, hell the car radio is probably more expensive.. in fact I bet the floor mat option is more expensive.. (okay that last one is me being sarcastic)...

      But you get my point, you are comparing a $50k car to a $2.5k car.. not quite in the same market..
    • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Thursday January 10, 2008 @12:20PM (#21985064)

      Your BMW is a diesel, which is not comparable because it uses higher compression on a more energy-dense fuel, and is thus inherently more efficient. Instead, realize that everybody is comparing to a gasoline car, and thinks it's impressive because they're used to 30 mpg or less.

      Of course, the real reason it's not impressive is that even non-hybrid gasoline cars, such as the Honda CRX HF and 3-cylinder Geo Metro, were capable of getting fuel economy in the 50 mpg range 15 years ago or so, and did it with more horsepower.

  • by stubear ( 130454 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:29AM (#21983284)
    ...and it's called diesel [treehugger.com]. However, we have politicians too stupid to see that diesel powered vehicles can get the gas mileage consumers demand while burning cleaner than gasoline combustion engines can like environmentalists want. Stupid states like California and Massachusetts outright ban these vehicles for new car sales. If diesel is so awful, I saw no evidence of that on a recent trip to Paris where diesel cars are everywhere. Diesel also offers a path to biodiesel through conversion kits which could ultimately smooth the transition to a renewable energy source that a)helps the U.S. economy and b)helps lower carbon emissions dramatically.
    • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:34AM (#21984382) Homepage Journal
      Because one of the little dirty secrets of the Clean Air act was to exclude about everyone other than passenger cars from the rules. They specifically excluded diesel from the rules as the manufacturers were claiming small number of vehicles, poor farmers, and limited impact. Most likely a front for the oil industry.

      Does Sweet Crude ring a bell? Specifically named for lack of sulfur which was the major contaminate in diesel.

      The oil industry had the chance to make diesel the fuel of the future but their bean counters got in the way. They have known for ages (since McKinley's time) how to remove sulfur from the fuel BUT THEY DID NOT WANT TO. they did it for speciality uses (kerosene lamps so they would not catch fire or stink) but not vehicles. As such states like California went after them, specifically because nearly a dozen of the contaminents in heavy sulfur diesel fuel are carcinogens. Worse studies showed that air in diesel school buses was worse than the air around them!

      Diesel had a futre but the industry got greedy and now will pay for it. Its not going to be until 2010 that we have mandatory clean diesels. Hell the current ones put out contaminents that hard catalytic converters.
  • I can't wait until the sport compact [wikipedia.org] crowd gets a hold of the Nano. Who's going to be first to slap a VTEC [wikipedia.org] sticker on the back?
  • Okay, so who can imagine this car parked in front of a black background, slightly steaming, with Robin Williams popping out of it in a garish 1970s striped shirt? He can rant about oddities of the human condition, and close with an odd hand-gesture saying Nano, Nano.

    Yes, I watched too much television as a youth. I liked that show until I saw Jonathan Winters in a diaper. Oy!

  • This is why I'm generally optimistic about the future: because if we can't do something in the United States, at least we've reached the point where someone, somewhere will find a way. We utterly failed to regulate the OS market by giving Microsoft little more than a slap on the wrist, but the EU seems to have its priorities straight, and has forced the company to open some of its key protocols. In the US our cars are pricey gas guzzlers because it's one of the markets that progresses the most slowly, but
  • at all. ;)

    Seriously though.. seems like a bargain. Wonder how much it will cost us outside india when import duties are added and whaterver other charges the govt. piles on in various parts of the world.
  • Really, I prefered my Title.

    Grainy Video from the floor [mrcopilot.com] plus pics and an examination of what Tata had to cut out to make the price.

  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @10:57AM (#21983754)
    I love it when so many people so comprehensively miss the point. Guys, first visit India, then understand the problems, then you are qualified to comment (and yes, I have worked in vehicle R&D and yes, I have spent time in India)

    First, to all the Diesel supporters out there (I'm one too, currently driving my fifth one, and I keep them a long time.) The real reason that the US hardly sees European advanced Diesels, and that India can't use them, is that they don't have the refining and distribution capability to make the fuel needed by advanced car Diesels. There is a reason why my car has a 4-valve per cylinder DOHC with common rail and variable vane turbo, and my boat has the same engine with two valves per cylinder and produces one third of the horsepower. The boat will run on heating oil. The car needs low sulfur fuel with plenty of additives.

    Second, to all the "this is underpowered, this is dangerous" mob out there. The alternative is either people hanging off a scooter, or a powered tricycle with no safety features whatsoever. This thing is a huge advance. Thirty HP is plenty for India, where acceleration has to take place in the middle of slow moving traffic, and where the motorway speed limit is 60.

    Also, you may not have realised that the quoted fuel consumption of cars is on a special test cycle. American cars with their hugely over-horsepowered engines (often using a 2 litre plus engine where the Europeans would use 1300cc, and around 200HP where we would use 100) exceed the EPA consumption as soon as you put your foot down, yet most of the power can never be legally used for more than a few seconds. A limited capacity, limited power engine will in reality get better MPG simply because you cannot use it to waste fuel in rapid acceleration followed by heavy braking.

    It seems to me that what this demonstrates is that Indians are capable of thinking about what works for their society, which is their huge advantage over most of the Third World.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:19AM (#21984108) Homepage Journal
    At $2500, a vehicle like this would be worth buying just for hacking.

    You could take the engine out without a block and tackle, carry it into your apartment, and mess with it on your kitchen table. You could play around with different engines about as easily as you swap a video card in your computer, playing around with Stirling engines or electrical motors or series hybrid configurations, with the the help of a local machine shop, or with after market kits.

    When I was a kid, nearly everybody could do a little work on cars, and everybody at least knew somebody who did fairly major maintenance to their cars, and it was not at all uncommon for people to redesign various aspects of their cars, from boring out their carb jets to monkeying around with their suspension. Today cars are really, really good, and really really reliable. There just isn't much incentive to muck with a $30,000 machine that is pretty damned good already.

    But at $2500, it'd be worth doing just for curiosity, not to mention much easier given the small size of the thing.
  • by mrjb ( 547783 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:19AM (#21984110)
    54 miles per gallon = 22.9577601 kilometers per liter
  • Look at the price (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nesa2 ( 1142511 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @11:44AM (#21984530)
    All I hear is discussion about how much this car lacks and how much better all other cars are.

    Is anyone going to look at the price and say "Wow finally I could afford this car!" Or are we all spoiled to a point where price does not matter? I think that price is the greatest achivement of this car company.

    Imagine getting a loan for the cheapest new car that currently exists and paying it off for next 3-5 years. This car is cheaper than almost any motorcycle you could possibly buy. I could buy it with my petty cash and use it for every day commute to work and I bet insurance for this car would be next to nothing as it's only worth $2.5K to have whole car replaced.

    Other car companies should be very afraid. One thing we can expect to come in next few years thanks to this car (if it ever reaches North America due to politic involved selling such a cheap car) - cheap, fuel efficient cars for everyone!

    If this car was introduces to North America there would be huge implications on every aspect of our society starting from public transit (not being cost effective way of travel anymore) to lack of roads (due to number of these cars being on the roads), to people traveling greater distances to work (low cost suburban living and low cost of transportation), to mayor North American automakers and massive layoffs to come, including sky rocketing gas prices (increasing MPG but increasing numbers of cars on road - high gasoline demand)... etc.

    I somehow doubt that this car will ever get close to North American shores. Or if it does it's starting cost will be $10K which does not make it worth anymore.
  • Disaster for India (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Electric Eye ( 5518 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @12:00PM (#21984764)
    the growth of car ownership in India is going to be one of the worst disasters to hit that country. Just like in China, where car ownership for a billion people is destroying millions of acres of land (roads) and eating up untolds amount of oil. Driver's ed is non-existent, the roads are awful, there are no rules on the road. If you've ever been to India and driven on the roads (and I'm not talking about the insane cities streets) you'll find out very quickly how terrifying that drive can be. Putting a billion more people in cars is not the way to a good future - not for India and not for the rest of the planet. Building a cheap ass car like this will only doom us faster...
  • by Adeptus_Luminati ( 634274 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @12:06PM (#21984858)
    Suggestions for version 2.0:

    1) Make it 90% electric and 10% biofuel. I only do not say 100% because in India, even in the most modern cities, power goes out like once every couple of weeks or more.
    2) Make a 100% electric one and sell it in China!

    If this is done successful (millions sold) in these 2 countries, we may be able to overcome a major environmental hurdle & TATA should deserve a Nobel for that.

    3) Get the government to subsidize this thing big time. Bring the price down to 0.25 lahks (~$750) and you will see major adoption. $2500 still WAY too expensive in India
    4) Make 100% of parts recyclable & provide locations to do this in major urban cities. That said, Indians are pretty good at using something until it is completely broken and unrepairable. Nearly all buses in Mumbai look like they are from pre-world war II !
    5) Make a door-less version & 100% electrical with "wind-up option" (in case electricity fails in city), and force by law diesel rickshaws to use this instead. Polution in cities will be cut back by 90% if you do this!
    6) Make the horn 50% less loud (at least!). You almost need earplugs to drive around Indian cities.
    7) Make damn well sure it is waterproof; as in, it can be submerssed in 4 feet of water (monsoon seasons) and not leak inside.

  • Fiat 126p (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mike_K ( 138858 ) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @12:43PM (#21985474)
    Reminds me of the Polish Fiat 126p. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_126 [wikipedia.org]

    To everyone who thinks the Tata Nano is underpowered, that car had 24hp, and was capable of hauling 4 people. It wasn't comfortable, but it worked. It climbed mountains (I was personally in one of those as it climbed to some small village in the Alps). And it consumed very little fuel - around 40 gpm, I think. And since nobody was comparing it to huge western cars, it was just fine. Read the link.

    I think this car will be the bomb, and will be imitated by other car manufacturers in India.

  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <pig.hogger@gmailCHEETAH.com minus cat> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @01:11PM (#21985952) Journal
    Just like the apocryphal story of the Chevy "Nova" not selling in Latin America because "no va" means "won't go", the name "Tata Nano" won't fly in (french) Canada, because both "Tata" and "Nono" (yes, it's an "o") mean "moron", "stupid" or "idiot" in french-canadian slang...

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972