Can the World Handle the World’s Cheapest Car?

Today the Streetsblog Network takes us to India, where some fear the recent launch of the highly-anticipated $2,000 Tata Nano — a.k.a. the "world’s cheapest car" — will wreak havoc on the environment and already crowded public spaces. Hard Drive has the story: 

medium_tata_nano_1.jpg.jpegPhoto via Hard Drive

India’s middle class is on the rise, as is the desire to ape Western commercialism. As a result, many people still see a car ownership as a point of pride, a symbol of individual progress, despite growing problems with air quality and gridlock.

On a recent trip to India, the manager of a tire company told me many of his neighbors were putting their names into a Nano lottery to be the first to own their first car. That worried him. "The roads are beyond capacity now," he said. "How will they hold millions of more cars?"

Earlier this week, Tata Motors announced its intent to expand into European and US markets. Said company chair Ratan Tata: "This was never conceived as the cheapest car, but as providing transport to those people who never owned a car." You’ve been warned.

Also on the Network: Hub and Spokes reflects on keeping cities like New York affordable; Portland Transport looks into a new transit-timing tool from the makers of Walk Score; a study cited by Bicycle Fixation reveals that bike lanes are good for business; Cap’n Transit checks up on the Red Hook Tunnel Bus; and more. 

  • It is time for India to take seriously the famous quotation from Gandhi: “Live simply that others simply may live.”

    Needless to say, it is long, long past time for Americans to take seriously that same idea.

  • prashant

    actually u r missing the point…. instead of barring people from owning a car we should focus on using more fuel efficient cars… nano is not only cheapest it is one of the most fuel efficient cars in the market.

    so i guess time has come when instead of blaming nano.. americans should leave there worthless SUVs and fords and shift to NANO.
    coz nano is here to stay!

  • Fuel efficiency is not the problem, prashant. The fact that cars are driven at all. I believe it is you who is missing the point.

    Building a world for cars (as America has done for the last 50+ years) creates a need for more cars, creating a never ending cycle. If India starts building more roads, suburbs, etc to accommodate these NANOs – it will create a more car dependent India (hence the self-fulfilling prophecy).

    Once cars take over a neighborhood, city, state, country – turning back becomes very difficult (see 90% of America). While it is nice to see Indians have a chance at the “American Dream” and be lifted out of poverty, America has created an unreal goal for the rest of the world.

  • I’m afraid this might also start the trend of disposable car. In US, regular car maintenance can easily run into hundreds or over thousand or dollars per year. So after driving it for 2-3 years, the owner might ask if they want to pay for car maintenance? Or if they should just dump it for a new one? Pretty much like the rate you’d upgrade your iPod.


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