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Automotive Update, Winter 2010

Tuesday, 5 January, 2010

News comes of different types of motor vehicles which may soon find their way onto the American road.

Think, NV comes to Elkhart, Indiana. You may remember their ill-fated mix up with Ford in the late 90’s when

THINK city

Think City displayed in Michigan

Ford was looking to offer an electric car for California. The fully electric North American Think City will be license-built by a company partially owned by Think, NV in Norway. The RV Capital of the World has suffered considerably this decade and this arrangement shall consume some of their existing capacity and idle expertise. 100-mile range, top speed 62 mph, may be on offer for the 2012 model year.

Tata Motors of India intends to offer the Nano in the United States, and almost certainly throughout the NAFTA zone “within three years”. This is expected to be the Nano Europa variant with a .9-liter, three-cylinder engine and higher specification than the Indian native. Because of Tata’s long standing relationship with Fiat, this may have some tie (sales, distribution, or production) with Chrysler. However, Tata operates Jaguar and Land Rover whose dealers may wish to acquire a low-priced, higher volume line in these fiscally conservative times.

The Nano is intended to be license-built. If production is in Mexico, the Nano may also export to Brazil

Tata Nano

Tata Nano, the world's lowest-priced car.

without punitive tariffs. Chrysler has excess capacity in Mexico today. If the Tata Nano Europa prospective specifications make production we shall see a four-passenger, four-door coupe with a five-speed manual automatic* transmission, and a limited top-speed around 68 mph or 110 kph. Fuel economy should be in the upper 40s in the EPA urban cycle. If the projected price for Nano Europa in the UK holds, the car would start at $6500 in the US.

The Wall Street Journal, and only News Corporation’s The Wall Street Journal, projects that the Renault-Nissan Alliance shall introduce Renault-Dacia Logan in the United States. This car is currently sold in Mexico as Nissan Aprio. WSJ proposes this car would be sold under the revived Renault brand in the United States; the final AMC-built, Renault-branded-and-designed car was built during 1988. It is not clear why Renault would be revived in the United States rather than selling the car through the existing Nissan network.

The Logan is an interesting product discussed elsewhere on this blog. Initially designed to be a rugged, simple

The Dacia-Renault-Mahindra Logan or Nissan Aprio

The Dacia-Renault-Mahindra Logan or Nissan Aprio

and modern car for sale in Eastern Europe, Renault is selling them in many countries including Western Europe where they move all they can import. Logan is a simple car purchased by people seeking a practical transportation device. The single chassis is available with sedan, estate or station wagon, hatchback, crossover, SUV, van or pick up bodies with the same engine and transmission options. These include 1.6 liter gas and diesel engines with both manual and CV transmissions. Based upon pricing in the UK, the Logan sedan could sell for $8500 in the States.

The hatchback is called Sandero. Its crossover sibling called Sandero Stepway. The SUV is called Duster. The seven-passenger estate isn’t really a station wagon, but a “Multi-Convivial Vehicle”. Nonetheless, they are all essentially the same vehicle built in the same factories.

Hyundai and Kia are reporting excellent numbers in the depressed economy with their basic vehicles proving most popular. Perhaps the time has come for basic transportation to become available in the American marketplace. With some entire lines of vehicles gone, and many dealers losing their franchise to sell a particular make, these new products may find a gracious reception among those who deal in automobiles. Good, basic cars soon may be tolerated among the arbiters of which vehicles sell in the United States.

* I re-reviewed the stats of Tata Nano Europa and made a correction, 06 Jan

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