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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Tata 'People's Car' - environmental disaster?

The new and rather cheap to buy Tata 'People's Car' is strutting its stuff at the 2008 Delhi Motor Show. The model is designed to confirm that Indian industrial giant the Tata Group is a world player in the field of small, cheap cars. There are still no official photos of the vehicle, but it is a simple, four-seater with a tiny 33-horse power engine at the back. The price: no more than about 2,200 euros!

 Tata - an earlier model
An earlier model from Tata

Are all India's one billion-strong population now going take to the road, making the car's introduction an environmental disaster? Professor Lucas Reinders, Amsterdam University's 'professor of the environment', is very concerned: "This car will offer an attractive alternative to people who rely on India's poor public transport or who ride cycles or motorbikes on its dangerous roads. Therefore, I think there's a good chance a huge number of the cars will be sold."

No hit
However, according to Abishek Aggarwal, a scientist at Delhi College of Engineering and co-inventor of the only hybrid car developed in India, it will not be such a hit. He thinks that people will not get the quality they expect from a car for which they are paying 2,200 euros.

Abishek Aggarwal  Abishek Aggarwal

"People here in India are becoming increasingly more aware of quality, and the Tata will either have to make losses or undergo improvements. It may be a cheap car, but it's definitely neither a status symbol nor of the quality people would expect to be buying."

Elmer van Grondelle, who teaches car design at Delft Technical University, also doubts the Tata People's car will be a hit. He thinks the low price, even in India, will not prove all-important. What a car looks like remains a major consideration and what about its ability to hold the road. With the engine at the back, the Tata could swerve around as badly as the famous Volkwagen Beetle.

In the brief press release about its new people's car, Tata stresses the safety advantages. Considering whole Indian families pile onto motorbikes in fast-moving traffic, Mr van Grondelle says the concern is well placed. He also finds believable Tata's claim that its car is less polluting than a motorbike. "Indian motorbikes usually have two-stroke engines which are bad on pollution and four-stroke motorbikes don't have catalytic converters (catcons). A car using a four-stroke engine with a catcon is 40 times cleaner."

Lucas Reijnders 
Lucas Reijnders

Professor Reinders, however, rejects the idea that the Tata is better for India's environment. Even if it is cleaner, cars always use more fuel than mopeds or scooters, and people who at present take the bus, or even cycle or walk, have not been brought into the equation. Sales figures will soon show whether the Tata People's Car is a success or a failure. As in other countries, how the car is received by the Indian public will make or break the venture. It is not yet known whether the new car meets Western safety and other standards, but at the moment, there are no export plans.
India Growth Story | Ways2finance| Ways2forex


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