The Tata Nano – Transport Revolution or More of the Same?
Tata Nanos

Flickr photo by code_martial.

There was news this week that India’s Tata Motor’s is facing a number of hurdles as it works to release a $2,500 car for sale on the Indian market.

Tata’s planned Singur plant is apparently being closed, and, while the factory is expected to move to Sanand, Gujarat, land acquisition problems there need to be solved before production can begin. The big question, however, is once these hurdles are overcome, will the Nano be a transport revolution?…The answer is yes and no.

Yes, because a number of Indian families will now be able to afford a four-wheeler, thereby meeting their transport demands in a safer and higher quality manner than on two-wheelers.

No, because, even at the low price the car is supposed to sell at, $2,500 is still exorbitant for many poor Indians, and so a relatively small percentage of Indians will actually be able to pay the full cost of the Nano.

And no again, because individual mobility (in the form of private automobiles) is no solution to growing transport and environmental concerns. More cars on the roads — even low cost, low emission ones — will only increase congestion, pollution and accidents. Solutions to these problems will really only come in the form of better public transportation and non-motorized infrastructure, which serve the needs of the majority of the population, as well as protect the global environment.

As Dr. Dinesh Mohan rightly points out in a recent editorial, TATA can also help in this area, by mass producing high quality, low cost, low emission buses – instead of focusing solely on the Nano.

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