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Smoking Nano raises safety concerns again
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Faulty cabling came back to haunt Tata Motors on Monday when yet another Nano car almost caught fire in Ahmedabad, taking the number of similar cases to seven.

Although the carmaker tried to brush aside the case as a mere "wiring" defect, the incident has once again questioned the safety of the world’s cheapest car. The company recently undertook a Tata Nano Superdrive to establish the car’s robustness.

Ahmedabad-based Rakesh Shah, who bought a Nano on April 21 this year, detected smoke on Monday afternoon soon after parking the vehicle. There was a strange hum followed by smoke from the rear end where the engine is fitted. While his colleagues poured water to prevent further damage, the incident left Shah shocked. "Despite apprehensions, I trusted the product owing to the goodwill of the company. Now that I have been saved, how can I trust this car? Thankfully, my family wasn’t travelling with me," he said.

Referring to the Monday’s incident, a company spokesperson said, "The incident in Ahmedabad is being investigated and necessary steps will be taken. The company officials could start the car and drive it to our dealership. This indicates that there is no major issue with the car. Preliminary checks have found that there was no fire, only smoke."

So far, six Nanos have either caught fire or reported short-circuit and smoke from various cities — Ahmedabad (September 13, 2009), Lucknow (October 20, 2009), New Delhi (October 22, 2009), Mumbai (March 21, 2010), Anand (April 7, 2010) and New Delhi (Aug 27, 2010).

Shah’s experience was similar to that of other Nano owners. While five cars completely went up in flames, others reported smoke owing to a short circuit after a drive, which in Shah’s case was just 3km. Tata Motors had attributed the smoke to a short circuit in the combination switch area.

The company spokesperson added, "As for the earlier incidents, we have already said a 20-member internal team and an independent forensic expert undertook a comprehensive investigation related to the cause of fire and the conclusion of the investigation is that the Tata Nano is a safe car."

The company further decided to allay concerns by inspecting all cars with customers.

The company said, it asked its dealers in May to individually contact owners to fix appointments for the inspections. In the past, it asserted that there was no case for a recall as these were stray incidents.

The spokesperson added, "While these incidents have taken place, there are thousands of Nanos (till the end of August over 62,000 cars have been delivered) running normally with some having been taken by their owners on countrywide trips or to altitudes like Khardungla, the world's highest motorable road."

During the official launch of the Sanand facility that would manufacture 2,50,000 cars per annum on June 2, the company had flagged off Nano Superdrive that travelled 15,000 km across 36 cities in 26 days to reiterate the company’s claims of Nano being a safe car.
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