Friday, 11 January 2008

Tata Nano- No Ta!


The report that the Indian Tata Group has unveiled the Nano as the world's cheapest car (at 100,000 rupees or £1260) has produced (http://www.guardian.co.uk/india/story/0,,2238983,00.html) a mixed reaction. Many economists have hailed the 5 person, non-luxurious, car as a smart piece of development/marketing given a billion strong population of India poised in 5 years to take over from China as the world's fastest growing car market. The Nano is less than half the price of the next cheapest car in India and only marginally more expensive than an upmarket motorcycle. If a mere 10% of Indian motorcyclists 'traded up' (probable given the current economic boom) to a Nano, there would be a million extra cars on that country's roads each year (from the current 13 to 14 million). Mr Abdul Majeed of PricewaterhouseCoopers stated that the Nano "....will give the Indian customer a tough, easy to drive, cheap to maintain and, most of all, affordable car. The market possibilities are huge." It is certainly difficult for people already in car-dominated countries to criticise this aspiration of Indian workers. One might also 'throw into the equation' the fact that both Ford and Renault (http://renault-yeni.blogspot.com/) are also involved in developing India as a hub for the manufacture of small, cheap cars. Environmentalists are predictably less enthusiastic about the Nano. They point out that there is already a considerable air pollution problem (with its associated impact on health) in many Indian cities and that traffic congestion already poses difficulties for travel. It is also the case that India does not currently control emission standards of cars very strongly and some authorities predict that the current 219m tonnes of carbon dioxide released by India's vehicles into the atmosphere will rocket to around 1470m tonnes in 2035 if car travel in that country is unchecked. They advocate better public transport. Economists counter claim that the type of 'hi-tech' innovators that gave us this new Asian 'volkswagen' will 'solve the problems associated with its introduction. It will be interesting to see how this story 'pans out' but I predict that this development might well be used by our own pro-car lobby to suggest that there is no point in further disadvantaging 'the poor, over-taxed UK motorist'.

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