10 January 2008
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