In the future we we’ll all be driving small cars. That’s the hope of Indian automaker Tata’s newest car, The Nano. But for now, they’ve got to be able to market, distribute,turn a profit and get it out to consumers before they can really call it “The People’s Car.”
People in India get around in practically every way: by bicycles, mopeds, motorbikes, scooters, bullock carts, cars and buses. This all sounds more or less ordinary, till you consider this: there are less people who get by on cars than there are people who get by on any other means transport. In fact, cruising down any street in India, you might see an entire family (ie. two children, wife and husband) on a single motorbike. Highly unsafe, right? This is what is driving the campaign behind the Nano. To create an ultra low cost, fuel efficient four wheeler for the millions of Indian families getting by the other way. [image by blackrat]
By now, I’m guessing you’ve seen the Nano or heard about it from one media channel or another. But what factors will help the Nano model succeed? Or fail? And will it be marketable outside of India? My prediction is the following factors will greatly determine the answers to the questions I’ve posed.
High inflation in India is eroding the purchasing power of the disposable income of India’s population. This should increase their sensitivity to changes in fuel prices. The fuel efficient label on the Nano could help it sell as an alternative to less efficient, more expensive vehicles. Then again, people may just decide to get along by other means, if fuel prices increase too fast or too much.
The other factor that may seriously limit the Nano’s appeal to the population has to do with parking space. India’s cities have high population densities, and in most of these packed cities parking space for four wheelers is seriously limited or nonexistent. A typical middle class Indian living in one of the big metropolises won’t have the luxury of a two car garage that is common in the West. In these terms it seems much more sensible to take a bus, catch a cab, or squeeze through narrow streets on a motorcycle.
However, if the Nano does sell well, we may see competition from other car manufacturers enter the fray and the age of the ultra-low-cost fuel efficient car coming to the world. What do other Futurismic readers think about this trend? Will we in fact see more low cost cars being produced? Will they take off in the West like Tata hopes they will in India?