World's cheapest car to cost a fortune

It was touted as the world's cheapest car at 2,000-dollars apiece, but a new version of the snub-nosed Tata Nano will be available soon at a price closer to that of a top-end Ferrari or Porsche.

Mumbai-based firm D.C. Design says it is refitting the 3.1-metre (10.23 feet) five-seater hatchback, doing away with its plastic seat coverings, small wheels and single-dial dashboard.

The car's basic silhouette will be retained, but everything else will go in the new 220,000-dollar bespoke models that will have a top speed of 200 kilometres (124 miles) an hour, double that of the original.

A prototype is expected in two months.

"Our hallmark is high-technology products," said Dilip Chhabaria, head of D.C. Design, a specialist car refitting group that has worked for Bollywood stars and other wealthy drivers.

"We would like to keep the cost low but with the technology and the amount of work we will be putting into the car, the 10 million rupee (220,000 dollars) price tag will be justified," Chhabaria told AFP.

"There will be a lot of tech wizardry in it, plenty of IT-enabled equipment," he said.

The standard two-cylinder 624cc, 33-horsepower engine will be replaced by a 1600cc engine and the car will roll on bigger 20-inch (51 centimetre) wheels.

To accommodate the new muscle under the bonnet, the back seats will be stripped out.

D.C. Design, which counts Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Anil Kapoor among its clients, will accept suggestions from clients "on colours and trims but not in terms of interiors or technology," Chhabaria said.

"We will be reworking the brakes and suspension systems to take the load off the engine. The idea is to give the world a feel of what India's IT and automotive industries are capable of when working in synergy," he said.

Given the prohibitive price tag, D.C Design intends to work on only two to five cars a year ordered by the wealthiest resident and overseas Indians capable of paying more than 100 times the price tag for the basic car.

"I would expect people from Bollywood to be interested in this project, but I think generally it will be people who have a passion for cars," he said.

The New Delhi auto show is underway this week where international auto majors are unveiling a slew of affordable cars designed to lure customers in Asia's third-largest car market.

The Nano, christened to connote the combination of small size and low cost, is the showcase product of India's diversified Tata group, which bought Jaguar and Land Rover from US giant Ford Motor for 2.3 billion dollars two years ago.

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