It has tiny 13-inch tires. Power comes from a motorcycle-sized 799cc engine. There’s just one airbag, no carpet and an unremarkable gray plastic interior.
But suppliers, engineers and other auto executives at the seminars have been kicking its tires all week. It’s the Datsun Redi-Go, a subcompact five-door hatchback launched in India in June. At first blush you’d think the Redi-Go is a car with zero potential in North America. But when you see its price, your perception of it completely changes.
The Redi-Go is priced between $3,559 and $4,214. The car is off to a roaring start in India with orders at 10,000 and growing, says Faiz Ahmad, senior vice president and global business head, engineering for India’s Hinduja Tech, the company that engineered the car.
Even if the tiny Redi-Go never makes it to North America, it may wield an outsized influence in an industry struggling to rein in costs. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average transaction price of a new car sold in the U.S. in July climbed to a record $34,264.
Ahmad described the Redi-Go’s development this way: Nissan created the car’s basic styling and handed the car off to Hinduja along with a price target. Hinduja attacked the project in two ways: It scoured India’s suppliers for off-the-shelf parts. And Hinduja’s product development engineers cut development, testing and prototype costs by engineering the car almost exclusively on computers.
Ahmad says a safety and emissions compliant car similar to the Redi-Go could be designed, developed, produced and sold profitably in North America for less than $10,000. The Nissan Versa, the least expensive new car available in the U.S. now, sells for $12,825, including shipping.
If you are a college student coming out of school with a huge loan to pay off, a car like the Redi-Go makes plenty of sense.