In continuing coverage from Thursday's briefing, in a front-page story, the New York Times (1/11, A1, Sengupta) reports that this week, when "Tata Motors unveiled the world's cheapest car, the $2,500 Nano," carmakers "from across the world [went] to New Delhi to peddle their wares to a bubbling Indian car market." While "incomes rise, car loans proliferate, and the auto industry churns out low-cost cars to nudge them off their motorcycles," Indians "bought 1.5 million cars last year," and, "[b]y some estimates, India is expected to soar past China this year as the fastest-growing car market." Not surprisingly, "Indian environmentalists have assailed the car craze, particularly because of the country's relatively relaxed emissions standards and the proliferation of diesel-powered cars."
The AP (1/11) continues, "The potential impact of Tata's Nano has given environmentalists nightmares, with visions of the tiny cars clogging India's already-choked roads and collectively spewing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air." However, according to industry analysts, "For millions of people in the developing world, Tata Motors' new" subcompact sedan "may yield a transportation revolution as big as Henry Ford's Model T." John Casesa of the Casesa Shapiro Group called the car "a potentially gigantic development if it delivers what has been promised."
The U.K.'s Financial Times (1/11, Johnson) adds that Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Motors, said that the company "made no claim to have made the most eco-friendly car in the world." However, "he pointed to the car's fuel-efficiency, noting it would achieve more than 20km a liter with its 0.62-liter engine and meet Indian and European emissions standards." Tarun Das, described by the Times as "chief mentor of the Confederation of Indian Industry," said that "he sees the Nano as a godsend for the Indian economy." Many Indian industrialists assert that "[s]uch entrepreneurial verve...will boost the confidence of Indian industrialists long overshadowed by China's manufacturing prowess."
"The Nano has sparked a race among global automakers to come up with vehicles at rock-bottom prices to appeal to the new lucrative segment of consumers in India and other emerging markets," noted the AFP (1/10, MacRae). "The budget car's nearest rival, the Maruti 800 from Japanese-owned Maruti Suzuki, sells for $4,800."
snipped from ASEE First Bell, January 11, 2008