Tata Motors may have stopped production of its high-profile ‘small car’ (it will now be available only on order basis), but the problems do not seem to go away.
A buyer, who approached the consumer forum claiming a design flaw in his Nano, has been advised to find like-minded customers to file a class-action suit against Tata Motors. According to this consumer, about 500,000 Tata Nano buyers are probably affected by the same design defects and asserts Tata Motors ought to recall all the affected cars immediately.
Here is what happened with Prakash Chanderkar, a mechanical engineer, when he bought the Nano. “I own two Tata Nano cars. I experienced a life-threatening situation while driving one of the Nanos. After some investigation, I found two problems in the design of Nano car. When certain part of the bottom place corrodes, the steering of Tata Nano completely fails. Secondly, after over 5,000km journey, the seal of the coolant pump shaft starts leaking. While this is common for all engines in all the cars, in the case of Nano, the leaked coolant enters into the crankcase chamber and contaminates engine lubricating oil. This causes damage to the engine journal bearing on the engine crankshaft which can lead to seizure of engine or total failure of an engine of Nano,” he says.
He filed a complaint, before the district consumer forum, which however, rejected it on point of limitation from the date of cause of action. Mr Chanderkar, then approached the state commission.
The Bench of Justice AP Bhangale and Dr SK Kakade, of the Maharashtra State Consumer Commission, stated, “The averments general in nature as also the prayers in the complaint reflects that the complainant (Mr Chanderkar) is interested in relief of broad direction to the opponent (Tata Motors) to recall the ‘Nano’ cars on the road and to take corrective measures in respect of certain portions of the car engine to make it road worthy.”
Ironically, unlike most consumers, Mr Chanderkar did not merely want his issue resolved—something that Tata Motors was willing to do. It has even offered to buy back his car after adjusting depreciation value if he buys a new Nano. But he flatly refused to buy Nano again.
So the consumer court ruled as follows in its order dated 18 July 2018: “... we direct the complainant (Mr Chanderkar) to issue a public notice in leading newspapers, which can inform the public in general about defects in 'Nano' cars manufactured by Tata Motors so that complainant's grievances can be supported and considered as a class action.”
Mr Chanderkar is seeking responses from Tata Nano owners and had created a web portal www.no2nano.in for this. The public notice for class action suit is returnable before the Consumer Commission on 28 September 2018. Nano buyers affected by similar issues can contact Mr Chanderkar through the website.
Talking about the issue, Mr Chanderkar said, “Tata Motors noted these defects early on and should have recalled these cars and offer some solution. However, they continued to manufacture and sell the Nano with these defects, thus exposing unfortunate and unsuspecting buyers to life threatening accidents. I faced this situation on 11 July 2016 the steering wheel of my Nano swayed uncontrollably and was by luck, I was saved from getting hit by a truck on a fly over. When I took the car to Concord Motors, the authorised service centre of Tata Motors at Worli, the technician told me that this (the steering wheel) was a problem due to rusted bottom part of the car. He even showed me how the rusted part was moving left and right with the steering wheel.”
Our mails to senior officials of Tata Motors, including its head for corporate communication, remain unanswered till writing this story. We will update this story, as and when we receive any reply from Tata Motors.
Only one Nano was assembled in June 2018 against the 275 assembled in June 2017. Due to the low sales of the model, Tata Motors announced the end of production without any direct successor to Nano.
Small Car’s Big Issues
Earlier in 2010, Tata Motors had rebutted some media reports about recall of Nano, saying that there were no generic defects in its small car. It, however, had said that the company can provide additional protection to the exhaust system of the vehicle and the electrical system at no extra cost. During an investigation by a team of internal and international experts, Tata Motors had found instances of “additional foreign electrical equipment installed” or “foreign material left on the exhaust system”. (Read: Tata Motors says it’s not recalling the Nano, but will provide extra fittings free of cost
Next year, Tata Motors agreed to change free of cost old starter motors in about 140,000 Nano cars. Vehemently denying this is a recall, the company had said it changed the old starter motor with a new and ‘better’ one, an exercise that reportedly cost it around Rs110 crore. (Read: Tata Motors to replace starter motor in 1.40 lakh Nano cars
There were reports of several fire incidents involving the Nano. The company denied those were connected to the car's design or its parts and blamed 'foreign electrical equipment' found on top of the exhaust system. The company offered to retrofit the exhaust and electrical systems but refused to recall the cars.