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Geneva
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GENEVA – India’s Tata Motors is using its Pixel concept car to test the idea of developing a 2-door European city car based on the low-cost Nano.

The concept has scissor doors and front wheels that at low speeds can turn at sharp angles, allowing the vehicle to spin around in its own shadow, perfect for getting out of a dead-end street.

While the model on display is a concept, with plastic doors that shimmy when opened, the idea is real, Chairman Ratan Tata tells Ward’s at the auto show here.

Originally, Tata talked about bringing an upgraded Nano to Europe, but “Europe and the United States need something you can drive on freeways,” Ratan Tata says, adding, “There has been a lot of talk about a 2-door preference in Europe.”

Tata CEO Carl Peter Forster says here the Nano often is thought of as being low cost, but it also is a well-packaged vehicle that is rugged and inexpensive to operate.

A production Pixel would be rated at 89 g/km of carbon-dioxide emissions with its internal-combustion engine, he says. But combined with electric drive, “it could become an electric city car.”

He also says last year’s Vista EV concept unveiled in Geneva is now the Vista EVx electric car in production for test fleets and will be delivered to U.K. customers sometime this year for testing.

The Nano has hit a few speed bumps since its introduction, and sales have been well below original projections, but Ratan Tata is happy with the outlook now.

“We are selling 9,000 (units) a month now, and in six months we should be up to 20,000,” he says, noting at that point the factory will be running at capacity.

Ratan Tata blames supplier problems for the Nano’s slow ramp-up. “The mistake we made was we should not have delivered dribblings of products,” he says. “At first, just 500 cars were delivered to customers who participated in a lottery.”

However, the situation is somewhat more complicated than that.

The Nano was launched in March 2009, but because of political protests at the original plant site in West Bengal, production had to be moved across the country to Gujarat. Serial output did not really begin until last July, putting Tata about a year and a half behind in its plans.

Because production initially was hobbled, advanced bookings and a lottery system were substituted for immediate deliveries. More than 100,000 Indian buyers signed up, but more than half reportedly lost patience and opted out.