Two models that represent the extreme ends of motoring have come on the market, the Lamborghini Reventon and the Tata Nano.
A machine for your millions
The next owner of one will acquire possibly the rarest and most expensive car offered for sale in the UAE. The new owners of the other have taken the keys to a vehicle equally coveted - as the cheapest production car in the world. As customs officer Ashok Vichare and bank employee Ashish Balakrishnan yesterday became the first ever owners of the Tata Nano, bids were being invited from the UAE for a Lamborghini Reventon roadster, one of only 20 in the world and offered at a "non-negotiable" Dh6,060,450 or US$1.65 million.
At current exchange rates, the purchaser of the Reventon could afford around 573 Tata Nanos. But while the Lamborghini is modelled on the F-22 Raptor jet fighter and has a top speed of 340kph, the Nano has the acceleration and style of a hot-air balloon and will struggle to break 110kph. While the Reventon can reach 100kph in 3.4 seconds, the Nano takes a leisurely 14 seconds to reach 70kph. Not that its performance shortcomings bother its first owners, who were selected by a lottery. The car was handed over by Tata Motors chairman Ratan Tata in a brief ceremony at the company's Concorde showrooms in Prabhadevi, Mumbai.
"I didn't believe that our names would come up in the lottery, and I was stunned when we were selected to be the first family to have the car," said Mr Vichare's wife, Sheela. The family will today take the car to Mumbai's Siddhi Vinayak temple to be blessed. Mr Balakrishnan said his first trip would be a "joyride" on Bandra-Worli Sea Link, Mumbai's new cable-stayed bridge. "There are three things in life which one cherishes - to own a house, buy a car and start a family. For me, the second dream is coming through," he said.
Tata also awarded a car to Kores India, a corporate customer. The three will be the only ones to take delivery this week, from 100,000 selected by ballot to receive the car by end of 2010. Rather more exclusive is the Lamborghini, placed on the popular internet classified advertising site Dubizzle this week. Just 15 months after the first Reventon was delivered to a dealer (Lamborghini of Las Vegas, in the US state of Nevada) and eight months after the 20th unit was delivered (there are conflicting reports about its destination), at least one of the cars is back on the market.
"It's a toy, a boy toy," said Yux Perberschlager, 29, the middleman for the sale. "If you have millions and millions of dollars, I mean, really, what are you going to do with it?" Mr Perberschlager refuses to disclose much information on the seller, revealing only that he is an investor based in the US. And the only reason he is getting rid of this Batmobile-esque car is that he has his monied eye on a new Ducati motorbike- but he isn't selling the Lamborghini because he needs the money to finance his new toy; he just wants to make room in his garage, Mr Perberschlager said.
The online listing (it was still on Dubizzle.com last night) includes only computer-generated images of the Reventon; apparently a real photo "could have revealed the identity of the seller". The listing has been up for a week now, and Mr Perberschlager says there have been a handful of serious inquiries, mostly from Emirati men. A nephew of the Ruler of Ras al Khaimah, for example, put in a call. One problem so far has been that the car is in the US.
"They say they want to test-drive the car. I say yes, but the car is in the US, and then the conversation is over," Mr Perberschlager explains. "But if you're going to buy a $1.65 million car, I think you can afford to fly to the States to test-drive it." As for the Nano, many of those customers may not see delivery for many months, as production gears up. Kishan Rao Nagre, a retired irrigation department officer from Aurangabad, has asked to be refunded the Rs1,40,000 (Dh10,557) in cash he paid for his car in March.
"They have told me I will receive it in October to December 2010," he said. "I cannot wait so much time. My age is above 70 and I want to enjoy as early as possible. After one or two years I may not be in this world." Harsh Narang, Nano manager at Mumbai's Wasan Motors, said that 25 of his customers who had been successful in the ballot had also asked for refunds because the delivery date was too late.
Tata aims to increase production to above 250,000 cars a year once its new factory in Gujarat starts up in December. Eventually it plans to sell the car outside India. The car's European version, the Nano Europa, last week passed safety tests at the Motor Industry Research Association in Britain, in the presence of an inspector from the UK's Vehicle Certification Authority. The Indian car does have one advantage over its flashy rival on the roads. It has a back seat. The Reventon, Mr Perberschlager admits is: "Only a two-seater, so I don't think you could pick your kids up from school in this."