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Apr. 7 2010 - 10:36 am | 341 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

New Yorkers take on the Tata Nano

by Sharad Baliyan Uploaded to wiki by user:nik...

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The low-cost Tata Nano is all about the bare essentials, but the first example to arrive in New York City looks to have developed a taste for the good life.  Rather than rubbing fenders with other cars at this year’s New York Auto Show, held April 2-11, a bright yellow Nano has taken up temporary residence in the ornate lobby of Andrew Carnegie’s former mansion, now the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.The Nano will be on display in its swanky Upper East Side setting until April 25.

Known as “the people’s car of India,” a base Nano costs approximately $2,200 and comes with no frills.  There are no airbags, no power steering, and not even a separate opening for the trunk – the luggage compartment is accessed via the rear doors and folding rear seat-back. Yet Tata Motors has grand plans for the Nano, including planned exports to Europe and the U.S. within several years.

As part of the Cooper-Hewitt museum’s rotating series of exhibitions, called “Quicktake,” the Nano is intended to promote discussion, according to Cara McCarty, the museum’s curatorial director.  The Quicktake series is about “responding to ‘of the moment’ innovations and design,” she said, adding that even in New York, where driving can be a nightmare, “people simply love cars.”

Comments from museum visitors hint that the Nano is building its own New York fan base.  “I think it’s great,” said Jean-Noël, who lives with his wife, Betsy, in Central Park West. “Instead of looking at it like a cheap car, you can see it as a better scooter,” he said, referring to a panel describing how the Nano was developed for families who could otherwise not afford an automobile.  An adjacent picture of an Indian family precariously perched on an overloaded scooter drives the point home.

A small car like the Nano “is absolutely all you need in most cases,” agreed Jorg and Antonella, who call the Upper East Side home.  Stepping back from the car, Jorg nodded his approval.  “I absolutely do like it…I love it.”  Their only major concern:  the Nano’s tiny 12-inch wheels might not be able to cope with New York City’s cavernous potholes.

Matthias, a security guard stationed in the front lobby, was more immediate in his approval of the Nano. “Personally, I would buy it,” he said, without hesitation.  “This would be a perfect car for college students and delivery companies.”  The Nano’s small size could be a time saver too, he added, since finding a parking spot would be easier.  The Nano is almost two feet shorter than a Mini Cooper.  As this video shows, the Nano’s small size also came in handy when positioning the car in the Cooper-Hewitt museum.

Of course, not everyone proved as convinced of the Nano’s design merits.  “I like that it doesn’t have any pretense of speed,” said Adam, a student who lives on the Upper West Side.  However, he found the museum setting made the Nano feel more like a “concept” than a real production car.  “I like that it’s cheap,” he said.  “But I’d still be terrified to get hit by a truck while driving one.”


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    About Me

    I'm an automotive journalist based in New York City and a frequent contributor to The New York Times, Edmunds.com, Gaywheels.com, CarandDriver.com, Bimmer magazine and many other well-respected publications.

    I recently spent nearly 5 years in the wilds of Paris, France, where I was reporting about the European and Indian automotive world. But no matter where I am, there is always a great car story waiting to be told.

    I've poked my head under the hood of a New Delhi taxicab, worked the pits at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and driven 197-mph on the German autobahn.

    Now that I'm back in the U.S. - along with Matthew, my partner of 10 years - it's thrilling to get reacquainted with N.Y.C. and American car culture.

    I love my job no matter if I'm driving some jaw-dropping exotic car or, much more likely, hunting for a parking spot in my downtown neighborhood.

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    Contributor Since: October 2009
    Location:New York City, N.Y.