When I give talks, I often use the Tata Nano as a classic example of a low-end disruptive technology that could only come from emerging markets. It’s incredibly cheap, it targets a new consumer market instead of existing users and it reeks of compromise. The point I make it simple — the list of what it lacks is long: no airbags, only one wing mirror, no power steering, a whopping two-cylinder engine and so on.
But if you were to look at it, you wouldn’t think it lacked for anything. It comes ranged in a hero colour of bright yellow, it has vents that probably don’t do anything but wouldn’t look out of place on a Ferrari, which isn’t surprising given it was apparently designed by an Italian car studio. Their latest TV ad, which I linked to on this blog a while ago, doesn’t even mention that it is cheap — instead it invites you to Celebrate Awesomeness.
Well, this aspirational positioning does have its limits. The Nano attracted complaints of unreliability and fire in its early days, it isn’t selling well, and the reported ambitions for a European and US launch haven’t arrived. Most recently, the Nano was tested against the global standard NCAP test and attracted a worst-possible zero star rating.
Naturally, Tata should suck up the cost and deliver the recommended structural improvements and air bags. Safety is not only top of consumers’ minds when they look at a car, but I also believe its a fundamental responsibility that we have as professionals to keep our users whole interests at heart. Flashy and sexy can’t come before safe.
Having said that, I wonder if calling the Nano an Unsafe Car achieves anything. I bet NCAP doesn’t rate the safety of two-wheelers like these ones in Bangalore.
And if they did, I think the Nano or any car would be much safer for the passengers. Accepting that Tata and all car makers shouldn’t put dangerous machines on the road, I can’t help but wonder if saying the Nano is unsafe is making the perfect the enemy of the good. Or at least, the good the enemy of the a small progress.