Production figures hint the world's cheapest new car is almost no more

The Tata Nano, once hailed by its maker as a "milestone in frugal engineering" and a "people's car", is ending production with the merest of whimpers.

In figures obtained by Bloomberg, just one Tato Nano was produced in June 2018, compared to 275 during the same time last year. Tata has confirmed to the business publication the Nano in its "present form cannot continue beyond 2019".

Launched in 2008, the Nano was designed by Tata to be the world's cheapest car. It was hoped the Nano would appeal to Indians who could only afford motorcycles, and become the country's equivalent of the Fiat 500, Mini or Volkswagen Beetle.

Although the Nano hit its price target of 100,000 rupees ($1956), the company had to cut a lot of corners to get there. The Nano was fitted with lightweight thin-gauge steel, had a single wing mirror and windscreen wiper, and missed out on power steering, airbags and a external fuel filler cap.

Additionally, because it didn't have a rear hatch or an opening rear window, you could only access the boot from inside the car, and optional features included air-conditioning, radio and CD player.

At the back of the car was a 624cc two-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels, producing 28kW of power. A four-speed manual transmission was standard.

Hampered by initial production delays, fire problems, poor safety, and the negative imagery related to driving the cheapest new car by a wide margin, Indians decided with their wallets to either buy a second-hand car, go with a cheaper motorcycle, or save up for a Maruti Suzuki.

Despite being built in a factory capable of making 250,000 cars per year, annual sales never got much beyond the 70,000 mark.