The Harvard Business Review has an interesting article about the Tata Nano, and the perils of hype associated with a brand new product. It contains some interesting thoughts and lessons about new product development, and in particular, the danger of hype for a product that doesn’t exist. It is worth a read.
What is missing, though, is an important element: Tata didn’t build a team that had deep automotive experience. This isn’t to say that someone who had spent years at Toyota or GM would have avoided all of the problems that the Nano faced. What I am saying is that some of the problems, like an over-expanded dealer network and issues with the design and assembly could have been either avoided outright, or at least mitigated, by having a team that has built, distributed, sold and maintained cars in very large volumes. The technical issues with the car was not necessarily the primary problem, but it certainly contributed to the downfall of the product and the brand when safety became an issue.
That oversight is pretty minor though, and just one piece of the puzzle that is the Tata Nano.