Auto component makers have played a major role in the creation of Nano, which has dominated the Auto Expo 2008. Vendor companies, that are supplying parts to the car, consider it a matter of pride to be associated with the world’s cheapest car.
“Have you seen the response at Auto Expo? It’s phenomenal! Roads are clogged in the neighbouring towns of Delhi because people are arriving in droves to see Tata Nano. When Tata Motors launched Indica, they were entering a segment that already existed. But with Nano, they are meeting the needs of the masses and creating a new benchmark in the industry,” said Sona Koyo Steering Systems’ CMD Surinder Kapur.
He added that since the car has a rear engine, it resulted in his company inventing a steering column which is low-cost and light, and has successfully passed all frontal collision tests.
While for some it meant lower prices, for others it simply meant smaller components and meeting an engineering challenge. Said Rico Auto’s MD Arvind Kapur, whose company has supplied engine head block to the People’s Car: “It was the ultimate challenge for the entire manufacturing and engineering industry. It wasn’t about making a low-cost component. It was about being able to design the products. It was about reducing the size of the engine and yet meeting safety norms. We have also shown a lot of faith besides sinking in money by setting up a plant in Singur despite various hurdles.”
For the Rane Group, setting up a dedicated facility to supply steering gears, columns and seat belts at Singur was a smaller challenge than meeting the project specifications. “Despite the problems of cost and innovating smaller castings and dyes to produce components for Nano, we took up the challenge and created many path-breaking practices to suit Tata Motors’ requirements. It was difficult initially, but the setting up of the Singur facility helped us develop such products,” said Rane Group chairman L Ganesh.
There were reservations and scepticism initially over the possibility of making such a product, admitted Lumax Group’s CMD DK Jain. “But the sheer determination of Ratan Tata increased our confidence. In two years, the prototype was out, and it made us realise that there is a strong vision behind the product, prompting us to follow the path and design products matching requirements both in terms of pricing and quality,” he added.
Agreed Nirmal Minda of NK Minda Group, which supplied electric switches for the car: “I never had any reservations about the car. It was all about streamlining the components manufacturing process and bringing in standardisation.”
President of Automotive Component Manufacturers’ Association and Asahi Glass CMD Sanjay Labroo said: “I had full confidence in the project as the decades-long relationship with the Tata Group and its strong ethos had moulded us to bring out the product at their cost and quality.”
For Tata Motors, convincing vendors was a challenge. According to Girish Wagh, who led the team that designed Nano, Tata Motors started convincing vendors two years ago to include them in the development of the car. To overcome their resistance, the company decided to put its money where its mouth was.
“To get people on board, we had to do something first so they would believe we were serious,” he said. “For instance, we made engines with internally developed engine management system, which sent out a signal to both Bosch and Siemens that we were serious about the project. They were both in the race, but in the end Bosch won.