Despite its clever design, and its trophy as the least-expensive new car in the world, sales of India's innovative Tata Nano have slowed to a crawl.
Now, in an effort to reach its target audience--Indians whose sole transport is motorbikes, including many in more rural regions--Tata and its local distributors are launching several new marketing initiatives. One of them involves giving away a car to encourage vasectomies.
Yes, you read that right.
The Tata Nano in question is one of a number of prizes offered to social workers to enroll men in a family planning campaign in the city of Bhopal, a name better known to U.S. audiences as the site of the world's worst industrial accident in 1984.
2009 tata nano minicar 001Enlarge Photo
The program's goal is to convince men to stop at two children, according to city collector Nikunj Srivastava, and vasectomies are considered both reliable and safe.
Bhopal wants 24,000 male residents to undergo vasectomies in 2010 and 2011, but so far the city's health department is behind target, with only 8,000 procedures performed thus far. Other prizes include motor scooters, televisions, washing machines, DVD players, and cash.
Nano sales have suffered from a number of unrelated factors. First came a year-long delay in production, after the company had to shutter a half-built factory in West Bengal due to protests by peasants and build an entirely new one from scratch in a different state, Gujarat.
The Nano is also on sale in only a handful of India's many states, and some potential buyers are still under the impression that they must get on a waiting list after placing an order, rather than taking immediate delivery.
Recent publicity over spontaneous fires that produced flaming Tatas hasn't helped either, despite the company's denial and subsequent service action to add a fuse and fit a shield below the Nano's catalytic converter.