By Jesse Snyder, Automotive News Europe (opinion)
It's not on the market yet, but Tata Motors' Nano is already a game changer.
The simple, affordable minicar is so obviously right for its purpose that it is stunning.
Tata Motors undoubtedly will have some early troubles. Combine a radical new concept, new design, inexperienced suppliers, untrained work force and a new plant, and the launch cannot be flawless.
But the Nano changes everything.
Along with upcoming rival minicars from Renault-Bajaj Auto, Volkswagen and Toyota, the Nano will bring mass motorised transportation to millions in the developing world.
Even before Ratan Tata unveiled the Nano in New Delhi last month, environmentalists and safety advocates denounced it as the start of a climate catastrophe. Plus, it would lead to more road deaths.
I see their point. If all 6 billion of us start to drive, the planet will have even bigger resource and pollution problems. Yes, the 780kg Nano is not as safe as a VW Golf. And, oh yeah, India's roads are scary already.
But most protesters come from the developed world. They see the situation from a big-economy point of view.
See it through Rashish Singh's eyes. As an outlaw taxi driver in New Delhi, he makes an above-average Indian income. A €2000 Nano is still more than a year's wages for him, but he wants one. His two growing children barely fit with Rashish and his wife on their 100cc motorcycle. " A car would be better," he says.
Rashish works for tips, so he pretends not to understand when asked if it is fair for developed countries to criticise the CO2 emitted by a two-cylinder car.
But suppose you live in a place where only rich guys own motor scooters. Your job and your kids' educational prospects are measured by how far you and they can walk in a day. If some guy pulls up in a big air-conditioned car, powers down the window and asks, for the sake of the planet, would you please not buy a Nano, what would be your response?
The other five-sixths of the world will start driving. Whether those already on wheels are ready or not. If we want the developing world to restrain CO2 emissions, we should restrain our own first.
And keep developing green technologies.
From Automotive News Europ (A Crain publication)