India's Tata Motors orders checks on Nanos after fires

India's leading vehicle maker Tata Motors on Monday began inspections of it Nano models after fires were reported in the world's cheapest car.

A company spokesman said the checks, to be carried out free of charge at Nano dealerships across India, were not a recall but said they were being carried out "to allay owners' concerns".

"Starting Monday, we will call each owner in coming weeks along with their car for inspection," the spokesman told AFP.

The Nano, which was launched with great fanfare last year, retails from 100,000 rupees (2,150 dollars) and is pitched at India's aspiring middle classes, many of whom currently use bikes but want to upgrade.

However, some 33,875 Nanos have been sold since July 2009 - well short of the company's expectations.

Tata Motors ordered an internal investigation earlier this year after some Nanos caught fire, including one in Mumbai in March, which burst into flames just 90 minutes after being delivered to a customer.

It was found to have remnants of a foreign object on the hot exhaust system, which is likely to have caused the combustion, the probe concluded.

Last month, another Nano caught fire as it was being delivered to a dealership in western Gujarat state. A ruptured fuel line was blamed, the company said.

Three other Nano owners complained of smoke in the car last year, Indian media reported.

Tata Motors, which owns British luxury marque Jaguar-LandRover, said that despite the fires, the Nano was a safe car with a robust design and had been rigorously tested.

"The incidences in these two cars (in Mumbai and Gujarat) were isolated and reasons unrelated," it said in statement last weekend.

If necessary, the checks would lead to additional protection to make the car safer, it added.

Tata Motors has unveiled a European version of the Nano and is looking to sell the vehicle in the United States. Both models will have to be redesigned to meet higher safety standards.

 

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