MUMBAI (AFP) - India's Tata Motors on Monday launched the world's cheapest car, the Nano, hoping to revolutionise travel for millions and buck a slump in auto sales caused by the global economic crisis. Company boss Ratan Tata said the no-frills car, slated to cost just 100,000 rupees (2,000 dollars) for the basic model, will get India's middle-class urban population off motorcycles and into safer, affordable four-wheelers. "I think we are at the gates of offering a new form of transport to the people of India and later, I hope, other markets elsewhere in the world," he said, describing the launch as a "milestone." "The present economic situation makes it somewhat... more attractive to the buying public," he told reporters in Mumbai. Hundreds of people, including journalists and company officials, were gathering here for the official unveiling ceremony at 7:30 pm (1400 GMT). Bookings for the tiny car - just over three metres (10 feet) long - start on April 9 and end on April 23, Tata Motors managing director Ravi Kant said. A ballot will then select 100,000 people to be the first to get the keys to the vehicle. Deliveries will start in early July 2009, he added. Even affluent Indians are eyeing up the Nano, which has a two-cylinder engine, four-speed manual transmission and a top speed of 105 kilometres (65 miles) per hour. It has no air conditioning, electric windows or power steering, but deluxe versions will be available. "This is a value-for-money car," said Hasmukh Kakadia, 39, a Mumbai investment analyst. "There's no safety in two-wheelers, especially with the whole family," said New Delhi resident Ganesh Khand, 38, who now has a motorbike but wants a Nano to be able to transport his wife and two daughters safely. Shares of Tata Motors jumped as much as eight percent early Monday to hit an intraday high of 173.85 before retracing on profit-taking to 165.40 rupees, still up 2.80 percent, or 4.50 rupees. Dealers say they have been flooded with queries about the car, whose debut was delayed after violent protests over the acquisition of farmland to build the Nano plant, forcing Tata Motors to shift from West Bengal state to Gujarat. But the new plant in western India will not be ready until late this year or early 2010, Tata said. That means production must come from existing factories, reducing output and potentially increasing waiting times for deliveries. Kant admitted that some customers may have to wait more than year to take possession of their Nano. Tata, though, said not delaying the launch was the right decision. The launch comes at a tough time for India's top vehicle maker, hit by the economic slowdown and credit crunch at home and abroad - at a time when it is trying to absorb the British luxury marques Jaguar and Land Rover, which it bought last year for 2.3 billion dollars. Tata is hoping the Nano will also be a hit overseas in the long term. Earlier this month, the firm unveiled a European Nano sporting airbags and leather trim that will hit the market by 2011 but be costlier than in India due to the extra features. A US version is also on the drawing board but requires redesigning to meet American safety standards. Environmentalists, however, fear the Nano will accelerate congestion on India's already crowded, pot-holed roads and add to choking pollution. "Every car that goes on the road is going to use road space. We're only adding to congestion," said Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN's climate panel, which won the 2007 Nobel Prize. Tata countered by saying that the Nano was the least polluting car in India, emitting 101 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre.