On this day in 2008, at the New Delhi Auto Expo in India, Tata Motors debuts the Nano, billing it as the world’s cheapest car: The anticipated price tag is around $2,500. Tata, India’s largest automaker, called the four-door, bubble-shaped mini-vehicle (it was just 5 feet wide and 10 feet long) the “People’s Car” and declared that it would be a vehicle for families who previously hadn’t been able to afford a car. (At the time, it wasn’t uncommon to see an entire family precariously packed onto a single motorbike.)
The Nano was originally scheduled to go on sale in October 2008; however, production delays arose because of a land dispute in West Bengal, where the car’s production plant was being built. The company opted to move its production facilities to another part of India and the Nano officially went on sale across the country in April 2009. The basic model carried a starting price of approximately $2,000 (not including taxes) and came without a radio, air conditioning, airbags, power steering or power windows. It had a body made of plastic and sheet metal and a 32-horsepower, 624cc two-cylinder rear-mounted engine, and it could reach speeds of 65 miles per hour. In another nod to cost-cutting, the car had just one windshield wiper.
Tata received more than 203,000 pre-orders for the Nano–a strong number, especially considering that at the time there were only about nine cars for every 1,000 people in India. However, because Tata was only able to produce an initial run of 100,000 Nanos, the cars’ first owners were chosen by lottery. The Nano was initially sold only in India, although Tata said it eventually intended to launch the car in other parts of the world.
Tata Motors is part of the Tata Group, one of India’s largest and oldest business conglomerates. And Tata does not just make inexpensive cars: In March 2008, the company purchased the venerable British brands Jaguar and Land Rover from the Ford Motor Company for $2.3 billion.