Tata Motors Ltd is developing a battery-powered version of the Nano car model in an attempt to revive sales, according to people with knowledge of the plan.
The Indian owner of Jaguar Land Rover is also considering a battery-powered version of the Tiago hatchback, the people said, asking not to be identified as the proposals are not public. Other initiatives being discussed include making energy-storage devices and creating charging stations, the people said. The plans aren’t final and could change, they said.
Increasing bets on electric vehicles could give the Mumbai-based company a leg-up in a market where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pushing for an initiative under which most vehicles sold by 2030 have to be powered by electricity in order to curb pollution and cut the dependence on oil imports. Electric vehicles haven’t taken off in India because of a lack of incentives for battery production and the absence of an infrastructure for charging.
Tata Motors does not “comment on future product launches and any kind of speculation,” the company spokesman said in response to an e-mail. Tesla Inc chief executive officer Elon Musk tweeted on June 15 saying his company is in discussions with the government of India requesting temporary relief on import penalties or restrictions until a local factory is built.
Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd is currently India’s only manufacturer of electric passenger cars, selling about 100 vehicles a year. Mahindra has also plans to expand its capacity to make electric vehicles almost 10-fold to 5,000 units a month in two to three years.
Sales of Nano have been sputtering. The automaker sold just 167 units of the minicar in June, down 65% from a year earlier. The egg-shaped car was first conceived in 2003 by the then chairman Ratan Tata after seeing an entire family precariously riding a scooter. He established a target price of Rs100,000, a bit more than $2,000 at the time. Deliveries of the car began in 2009. The car now starts from Rs236,389 and has variants with automatic transmission and power steering.
Rata Tata had said that launch of Nano was not ego-trip for him but delivering a promise to Indian middle class. The model later became a bone of contention in the tussle between Tata Sons Ltd’s chairman emeritus Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry, the ousted chairman.
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