In India, the world's cheapest car debuts to fanfare, criticism
Manufacturers take note of the $2,500 vehicle’s massive market, as environmentalists fear the effects of an automobile influx.
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Tata Motors has drawn criticism for producing a vehicle expected to draw an annual demand of 1 million cars, deepening India's oil dependence and pollution while further straining the country's poor infrastructure. Tata, however, has rebutted these claims, Reuters reports:Skip to next paragraph
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Tata Motors says a lot of these fears are unfounded. It says the car will meet emission standards and that car sales are already growing fast without the help of the People's Car … "Given the rate at which the entire industry will grow, even if we market it very heavily, it will still be a miniscule percentage of the cars entering the roads," a company spokesman said.
The People's Car model unveiled today, made largely form plastics and modern adhesives, has no radio, no power steering, and no air conditioning. In a design The New York Times called " 'Ghandian engineering,' combining irreverence for conventional ways of thinking with a frugality born of scarcity," the vehicle may fall short of India's now lax safety standards in coming years. The Times continues:
Tata officials say the car will comply with all Indian norms. But they are changing. India's major cities plan to adopt the Euro IV emissions standards in April 2010, requiring a 35-fold reduction in sulfur emissions over the current Euro III standard …[and] new safety rules mandating air bags, antilock brakes and full-body crash tests are also coming.
Some are questioning why there has been so much criticism of a company attempting to address the global demand for vehicles across class lines. Despite the environmental impacts, an emerging middle class also want the benefits that car ownership provides, reports Reuters:
"It's the same dream anywhere in the world," said Jyoti Anand, a used-car salesman in Delhi. "You want a good home, a good car, and a beautiful wife."
Tata's success or failure will help determine the company's place in "the global automotive arena, where the battle is increasingly being fought in emerging economies such as India, China, and Russia," according to a separate Reuters article.
"The product has rightfully gained a lot of attention," said Mohit Arora, managing director for the India at research firm J.D. Power Asia-Pacific… "It's a big, big deal for Tata Motors, and will be recorded in history books, whether or not it does well."