India's Tata Group generated headlines around the world this week when it unveiled the long-promised Nano, a $2,500 car aimed primarily at emerging markets. Plastics play a big role in the Nano, but not necessarily in some of the applications that were originally planned. The Times of India has a very interesting question-and-answer interview with Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata, which covers some of the plastics details, as well as a wide vareity of other issues. Here are a few of the plastics-related tidbits:
We decided to look at everything from scratch. I thought that we could have a car made from engineering plastics that would not be welded but use adhesives. But some of these concepts did not lend themselves to costs or volume manufacturing. So we moved on to a more conventional kind of car. That led us to configure a small car which would be a full-fledged car. We started again in an evolutionary way. It started with a concept of being a four-wheeled rural car. Do we have roll up plastic curtains instead of windows? Do we have openings like autorickshaws have instead of doors, but have a safety bar? We had many such early concepts and we finally decided that the market did not want a half car. If we wanted to build a people's car it should be a car and not something that people would say, 'That is a scooter with four wheels or an autorickshaw on four wheels'. And so we decided to do a car and really pare the cost.Can we expect to see the Nano in the United States? Tata thinks so. Asked "who are your potential customers?" he replies: "Rather than look at it geographically, look at who might be the buyer of the small car. If you look in the US or Europe, in some garages that have a Bentley or two, or a high-end Mercedes, you may also find a Smart (a subcompact car from Mercedes). Because that person thinks that it is a fun extra car to have. Then you may have a person who needs utilitarian transport and is not looking for a lot of creature comforts. Then you look at someone who is thinking of owning or owns an existing small car—to him this makes sense because it is more fuel efficient and costs less. On the other side, you have someone who aspires for a car. And this can come from anywhere in the country."