Nano car comes bottom of India satisfaction poll

India's Tata Nano, billed as the world's cheapest car, has finished bottom of a customer satisfaction survey by a global market research firm.

The hatchback clocked up just 70 points on the TNS Global's Total Customer Satisfaction index, against an average of 90, while its closest competitor and India's highest-selling car Maruti Alto scored 91.

"The customer expectations even at the bottom end (of the market) are rising," said TNS Global, whose survey covered 9,300 new vehicle owners in 28 cities and spanned 56 models in an emailed statement late Thursday.

"The owners of Tata Nano expect more in terms of design," TNS said.

The survey covered sales satisfaction, product quality, vehicle performance and design, after-sales service, brand image and cost-of-ownership.

Honda's premium CRV topped the survey, scoring 104, with the Toyota Corolla Altis on 100 and the Volkswagen Passad also notching up 100.

The Nano has had a rough ride since its launch in 2009.

Last December, its makers Tata Motors offered a "happiness guarantee" in an attempt to boost flagging sales and said new buyers and existing owners would be given a free four-year or 60,000-kilometre (37,000-mile) warranty.

A basic model costs about $2,500.

The Nano has been pitched as the "people's car" for India's aspiring middle classes, many of whom currently use motorbikes but want to upgrade to four wheels.

The launch of the world's cheapest car was expected to create a vast new market segment in the nation of 1.2 billion people, but reality has fallen short of expectations.

Analysts attributed the Nano's problems to concerns over safety, lack of cheap financing and operational hiccups after production shifted to a new plant.

Last year, Tata was forced to offer free safety upgrades after around half a dozen of the cars caught fire.

pmc/adp/dan

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