Tata Nano goes smart, gets power steering

Mumbai, January 13, 2014: The Tata Nano has just got a new shot in the arm aimed at improving its sales in the marketplace –an electric power steering system.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 13 Jan 2014 Views icon12620 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Mumbai, January 13, 2014: The Tata Nano has just got a new shot in the arm aimed at improving its sales in the marketplace –an electric power steering system. The latest avatar of India's most affordable car is called the Nano Twist and was launched earlier today in Mumbai. The Nano Twist also gets an all-new instrument cluster with LED fuel and temperature gauges, readouts for active fuel consumption and distance to empty and an all-new Damson Purple paint shade. The Nano Twist is priced at Rs 2.36 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the top-end XT variant, Rs 14,000 more than the current LX model. This price point puts it closer to other entry-level hatchbacks like the Hyundai Eon which is priced from Rs 2.89-3.95 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) and Maruti's Alto 800, which is priced from Rs 2.45-3.65 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

Till now, the Nano performed way below its potential in the marketplace. At 18,447 units sold in 2013, sales were down a massive 75 percent on 2012’s sales of 76,297 units. The biggest grouse against the Nano has been its heavy steering, the result of steering geometry that Tata hasn’t quite got right on this 630kg, rear-wheel-drive car. Manoeuvring the small car through traffic and parking was a tad cumbersome and to counter this, the carmaker gave the upgraded 2013 Nano a larger-diameter steering wheel to reduce the steering effort but this wasn’t very effective. The new Nano Twist with power steering could now provide that twist in the sales tale.

Tata Motors has developed an entirely new electric power assisted steering (EPAS) system with supplier ZF Friedrichshafen specifically for the Nano. In its November 15, 2012 issue, Autocar Professional had first revealed that the Pune-based ZF Lenksysteme would supply the EPS for the Nano. The EPAS system, supplied by the Pune-based ZF Lenksysteme, a joint venture between ZF and Bosch, marks the first serious mechanical upgrade for the Nano since its launch.

Tata Motors says an estimated 15-20 percent of prospective Nano buyers were shying away from the car due to the absence of the power steering. “Power steering along with some other new features will give us a big fillip in sales. Moreover, a different set of buyers will come our way, those who normally would not look at a product like the Nano,” says Ankush Arora, senior vice-president and head commercial – passenger vehicle business unit (PVBU), Tata Motors.

The Nano sees a whole lot of introductions in driveability, connectivity and design. While the most important ‘intervention’ is the power steering, there are also improvements in the form of improved clutch pedal ergonomics and gearshift control for better ergonomics. Other frills such as multi-information display, integrated Bluetooth audio system, new interior trims and accessories may also find way into the Nano Twist to appeal to younger buyers.

“There are three ways in which the vehicle will strengthen connect with consumers – driveability, connectivity and design. We have detailed what these should mean for the consumer. These things will help us reposition the Nano as a smart city car,” explains Arora.

Girish Wagh, senior vice-president – programme planning and project management (PVBU), Tata Motors, is bullish about the Nano’s future with the new features. The electronic power assisted steering system in the Nano Twist comes with a brushless motor. Wagh says it is the first of its kind in that segment. The brushless motor is more efficient and durable compared to the conventional motor.

The Nano Twist has an ‘Active return’ feature that Tata Motors claims is unique for EPS systems in the Nano’s class. Once the driver of the car has taken a turn, the motor will help the steering come back to the straight-ahead position.

The Nano Twist is the first major ‘intervention’ by Tata Motors to revive the entry level car’s appeal. In October last year, it had introduced the CNG version of the car but due to the limited availability of CNG in only a few states, sales have not hit the expected mark. Of the 2,000-2,500 Nanos sold every month, the Nano CNG contributes only 150-200 units.

Now with the Twist, the car gets the first big makeover since its launch in 2009. It just might have received the 'power' it needed in the first place.

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