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A Fire Scare for Tata Motor's Low-Cost Nano

Tata Motors said it may undertake a pre-emptive check on the 7,500-odd Nanos that have been delivered till date, after a faulty combination switch in the world's cheapest car resulted in fires in at least three cases across the country.

Three cases of fire in the car had been reported in the past few days in Delhi, Lucknow and Ahmedabad. There were no reports of injury or loss of life in any of the incidents.

The country's largest manufacturer of cars and trucks by sales, however, said it was not considering a recall of the car for the time being. It said its experts will check all the cars with customers, purely as a precautionary measure. Unlike in the US and European car markets, recall of cars is not mandatory in India, even in cases of technical faults.

"There seems to be some minor problem in the combination switch area. Of the two cars that we have had access to, this caused smoke and localised melting of plastic parts," said Tata Motors spokesman Debashish Ray, who chose to play down the incidents.

The company, which started delivering the Nano in July, said it was not considering any re-engineering in the car despite the fact that the fires were caused by a common problem in all the cases. The cars were stationary when the fires were reported. Tata Motors has not started to export the car yet. It refused to share the number of Nanos parked at its Pantnagar factory in Uttrakhand and those with dealers.

Sunil Kumar, the owner of the car that caught fire in Delhi, has sought compensation from Tata Motors. Another Nano owner, RH Rizvi in Lucknow, said, "I had parked my car at the parking lot of a shopping complex near my residence. Within moments I was informed by the parking attendant that the car was on fire. There was thick smoke in the cabin and I failed to douse the fire."

In a similar incident, another Tata Nano caught fire in Ahmedabad last month due to some technical fault in the battery.

Technical experts blame the position of the battery for such incidents. "It's quite a serious issue as the fuse and the main circuit breaker should have had gone off before the fire. There could be over-rated electrical parts in the car, which led to the fire," said a former official with the Automotive Research Association of India.

The Nano, which is priced in the range of Rs 1.2 lakh to Rs 1.7 lakh in Delhi (ex showroom), is the cheapest car in the world by a large margin.

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