The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

10 January 2008

Lacking bodaciousness

Tata's new Nano, argues Samir Sayed, is the first step toward truly disposable cars:

How much of a car's overall expense is due to its mechanical longevity? Remove that requirement and you're suddenly free to substitute mass produced plastic, wood and other materials for the more expensive metal bits, from engine parts to the body panels. Combine this freedom with the "stripper" mentality (how many disposable cameras have a zoom function?), and your costs, and thus price, sink.

When we get a good look at the 1-lakh car, we'll see just how much performance, safety and pollution control Tata could provide for $2500. But you can bet the car is not built for the long haul — because price is all. Ironically, even without fundamentally robust mechanicals, the 1-lakh car will probably "last" (i.e. remain in operation) a lot longer than western machines; by necessity, developing countries are endlessly innovative at repairing and recycling consumer goods. But the pattern of commoditization and [relatively] rapid disposability will be set.

One lakh, in Indian parlance, is 100,000 rupees, or around $2500 US.

The Nano seats five if they're really good friends — you have to figure they're not spending their rupees on cheeseburgers — and is motivated by a 0.6-liter inline two. (You were expecting a V?) Gas mileage is guesstimated at 54 mpg, though it's unlikely we'll ever see one of them undergoing the official EPA test.

Rival automaker Bajaj, in the meantime, has already announced a more upscale car for a whole three grand.

Posted at 3:42 PM to Driver's Seat

A good ZTR mower might approach that mileage, be easier to parallel park, and allow people to help keep the medians and shoulders clear of weeds as they travel.

Posted by: McGehee at 10:24 PM on 10 January 2008

I'm still waiting for the "Adobe" - the little car that's made out of clay. (The first thing that popped into my head when I saw the author suggesting "wood" as a sub for the "more expensive metal bits.")

And, as all of us who saw the mock SNL ad know, it's very easy to repair the Adobe after fender benders

Posted by: fillyjonk at 7:42 AM on 11 January 2008

Overhead cam, 624cc. Wonder how much of a hop-up market there'll be.

Posted by: Ed Flinn at 11:21 AM on 11 January 2008

There's an unwritten law somewhere to the effect that where there's an engine, there's someone trying to get more power out of it.

Posted by: CGHill at 9:34 AM on 12 January 2008