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In India, rich and poor line up for $2,000 Nano

Ten months after India's $2,000 Nano was launched, carmaker Tata has sold more than 200,000 vehicles.

Status symbol: Satish Kumar, one of the first Nano owners, drives his mother through the village of Nakhrola, India.

Mary Knox Merrill/Staff

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A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Months after buying the shiny silver car, farmer Satish Kumar still keeps the plastic wrap on the seats. Most days, his Tata Nano – his first car – sits in the front yard, proudly displayed between the brick pillars of a homemade carport. Tucked from sight are a couple of cows and a humble scooter that still is driven a lot more than the four-wheeled wonder.

The Kumars actually don’t much need a car: Mr. Kumar works in the fields around his house; Mrs. Kumar stays at home; and the kids go to school by bus. The car proves useful for those special occasions when the family wants to arrive together – and in style. “I’m mainly concentrating on using it socially – taking my whole family to weddings and other family functions,” he says.

For Tata, the Indian automaker, Kumar belongs to a new class of customer, thanks to the Nano’s price of just $2,000. But while the Nano spurred much chatter about what it allows the middle class to do, Kumar suggests the Indian consumer may be more smitten with what the car allows them to be. “I think the Nano is actually used as a signaling device,” says Sourabh Mishra, chief strategy officer at marketing firm Saatchi & Saatchi India. “It’s signaling, ‘I’m now part of a group who can afford a lifestyle that hitherto was not possible to me.’ ”

Some 10 months after Nano’s launch, Tata has booked sales of 206,703 cars; 17,000 Nanos have been delivered. Some 70 percent of bookings came from nonmetro areas.

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