Nano, the wheels that millions of Indians have been waiting to drive, on Monday hit the roads and waved goodbye to Tata Motors' enduring image as a truckmaker.
Although the hatchback Indica, launched in December 1998, helped clear the good-for-only-trucks air surrounding Tata, it was the Nano - the sub-$2,500 car - that made the global auto industry stand up and take notice of the company that was set up in 1945 to manufacture locomotives.
In 1954, Tata Engineering and Locomotive Co Ltd began manufacturing medium commercial vehicles along with Daimler Benz A.G of West Germany.
The Nano, unveiled at the ninth Auto Expo in New Delhi last year, is possibly the world's most anticipated car since the original people's car Ford Model T.
"The most talked-about car at the Detroit auto show (2008) is a car that isn't here and isn't intended to ever be sold in US showrooms," wrote the USA Today after the Nano was unveiled.
Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata said on Monday that he plans to export an upgraded version of the Nano to eastern and western Europe, the United Kingdom and possibly to the United States as well.
"From today onwards, the product will be available in the showrooms. . . We hope this day we will usher in a new form of transport," Tata said at the commercial launch on Monday.
Tatas previewed their small-wonder at last year's Geneva Motor Show and again at this year's edition with the variant that complies with European emission and safety standards. The car is expected to be launched in Europe by 2010-11.
The snub-nosed car, which has its 623-cc engine in the rear (a first), can carry four passengers, has a fuel economy of 23.6 km per litre and most of all is affordable to the masses.
Tata Group Chairman has hinted that the base variant of Nano would be available for just Rs 100,000 and customers would be able to book it with an upfront payment of Rs 2,999 between April 9 and 23.
The company is expecting two-wheeler users to switch to four wheels.
Tata said that the demand for two-wheelers was in the range of 6-7 million units and he expected demand for the Nano to be around 1 million.
The commercial launch of the vehicle on Monday was more a moment of pride for Tata, whose Nano left global car makers searching for answers.
Renault-Nissan announced plans to launch a budget family car but have since put them on hold given the global economic slowdown.
The ride was not smooth for the Tatas themselves. Fierce political opposition forced the company to quit its original manufacturing base in Singur in West Bengal to Sanand in Gujarat.
The first lot of 100,000 cars that are due for delivery beginning early-July would be rolled out from the company's Pantnagar plant in Uttarakhand.
'Good afternoon to Mamata'
Asked what he would tell Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, who forced Tata out of Singur, the industrialist quipped: "My statement to Mamata Banerjee is, 'Good afternoon.'"