BARACK OBAMA, visiting India, gushed on November 7th about its “wonder car”, the Nano. Launched last year by Tata Motors, it has been widely lauded as a symbol of frugal innovation. Simple, small and fuel-efficient, the world’s cheapest car at “one lakh” (100,000 rupees, roughly $2,250, before tax) was supposed to allow millions of aspiring Indian families to swap their overloaded motorbikes for compact, air-conditioned four-wheelers.

11月7日,美国总统奥巴马在访问印度期间大加赞赏Nano轿车,称之为“神奇汽车”。这款由塔塔汽车公司去年推出的车型被视为节约创新的标杆,而受到广泛推崇。这款车轻便,节能,而且税前只需10万卢比(大约2250美元)就能人手一辆,被视为世上最便宜的小轿车。百万中产印度家庭都能因此把自家超负荷的摩托车换成有空调的四轮小型汽车。

However, so far few drivers are buying it. October, before the festival of Diwali, is reckoned to be an auspicious time to get a family motor, and last month car sales in India rose by 38% compared with a year earlier. But only 3,065 Nanos were sold, a paltry 2% rise on the year before (and well down on September), with cumulative sales for the year reaching just 40,467.

不过,目前购买该款汽车的人却很少。印度的排灯节前一个月——10月是家庭购买摩托的高峰期,相比去年同期印度的汽车销售量增长了38%。但是Nano却只售出了3065辆,比去年同期仅增长2%(销售量甚至比9月份低),一年总销售量为40467辆。

One reason is that the new car is tricky to find: it is being marketed only in a few parts of India, as Tata struggles to get a new factory up to speed, which in time should churn out 100,000 cars a year. More troubling, dealers report a lack of demand. Some drivers have been put off by price rises: including tax, it is now more like a one-and-a-half-lakh car. Others were deterred by a few early cases of Nanos billowing smoke and flames: Tata is offering to fix this with a free “upgrade”. It is also said to be easier to find spares for already ubiquitous Suzukis.

造成销售不高的原因之一是这种新型轿车并非随处可见:它只在印度部分地区推广,而塔塔公司正加速建立新工厂,使产值增长到一年10万辆。更糟糕的是,经销商反应该汽车需求不大。价格上涨使一些印度人望而却步,如果加上税收,现在购买一辆车需要15万卢比。而NANO最近出现的冒浓烟和火星事故也降低了销售量。塔塔公司正通过免费升级来解决该问题。另外,该汽车的备用轮胎很难找到,和所无处不在的铃木车不可同日而语。

The micro-sales will make little difference for now to the parent company: Tata’s other models are doing well, as is its big foreign acquisition, Jaguar Land Rover. And the Nano could yet take off. But the sluggish start has given rivals, including Italy’s Piaggio, time to push on with micro-cars of their own.

如今,小型汽车糟糕的销售业绩并没有对它的母公司造成太大影响。自从收购了路虎,塔塔的其他款型汽车的销售情况良好。当然,NANO的销售可能会改观。不过它糟糕的前期表现已经给包括意大利比亚乔在内的对手足够时间来制造类似的小型汽车。