Tata Nano catches fire yet again!

At a time, when Tata was just beginning to get the Nano’s sales moving, there’s news of yet another Nano catching fire, this time in Ahmedabad. The latest fire takes the total number of such instances to seven since the car’s launch in March 2009!

According to an Indian Express report, fire officials said the incident took place near Shivranjani Crossroads, when a Tata Nano belonging to one Vipul Jani caught fire while he was driving home.

Vipul said that the fire started all of a sudden at the rear portion of his Nano, near the engine compartment. He had bought his Nano less than an year ago, on May 1st 2010.

In April last year, a Nano had caught fire on the National Highway-8 near Boriyavi village.

tata nano image
Pic: Tata Nano

Sales of the Tata Nano had just begun to stabilize, with Tata Motors selling 8,262 units in February this year. The company sold more than 5,000 cars in the last three months after taking a slew of measures such as extension of warranty to 4 years, Rs. 99 a month maintenance contract, zero down payment, exchange offers, TV ads, etc. Prior to that, in November, Tata Motors sold a dismal 509 units of the Nano. Related: Tata Nano gets 4-year warranty However, the company pulled up its socks and introduced several schemes, such as offering the Nano in exchange for two-wheelers, which saw sales climbing back up in December.

In fact, the company had even made assurances about the Nano’s safety saying the newer units will be free from trouble. In May 2010, Tata had silently recalled several Nanos for providing additional protection, free of cost. We aren’t sure if the latest Nano to catch fire was recalled by Tata for safety upgrades. Also read: Tata Nano pre-emptive checks for fire-related problems

While it is not clear what really causes the fires in the first place, it is believed that lack of proper ventilation for quicker engine heat dissipation could be one of the reasons. Nano owners may have observed that their car tends to heat up at the rear rather quickly, which takes a long time to cool down despite air flow via the rear bumper grilles and the two front-facing air scoops at the bottom edge of the second row doors. Now this is purely an assumption but the excessive heat generation around the engine bay could be causing some of the weaker plastic materials to catch fire.

There have been many instances in India of cars catching fire, but not as frequent as the Nano, which raises concerns regarding the car’s safety. Ratan Tata’s efforts to offer the ‘people’s car’ at the lowest price in the world is laudable, though at the same time we are tempted to ask if the Nano is really a ‘Kushiyon ki Chaabi’ as the Tata Motors’ ad claims?