In India one lakh means 100,000, and Tata will sell the most basic version of its new car at 100,000 rupees, or $2,500 (not including taxes and the cost of transporting it to the showrooms). This is roughly half the price of its nearest rival, and little more than the cost of a three-wheeled auto-rickshaw. But the “NANO”, as the car is called, is no rickshaw. Apart from the fourth wheel and the doors, it has a 623cc engine that will muster 33 brake horsepower. The car should eke out 50 miles to the gallon, Mr Tata says. It complies with the “Euro III” pollution standards that prevail in India and should meet the tougher Euro IV standards with a bit of tweaking.
Liberals in Europe and America will probably be unhappy at seeing more people driving cars. But look at how people are often transported in India:
Commuting in India's cities can be both cosy and deadly. Children squeeze snugly between father at the handlebars of a motorcycle, while mother rides side-saddle at the back. This precarious balancing act, says Mr Tata was the “visual target” he had in mind when he first conceived of the need “to create another form of transport”. About 1,800 people die on Delhi's roads each year, perhaps one-third of them on two-wheelers. Only 5% die in cars. Tata's project may pose risks for investors, but it promises unaccustomed safety for its customers.
Traditionally, liberals see saving the environment as of utmost importance, while they enjoy the comforts and luxuries of the first world. For all those people at risk in the developing world? They're not as important, obviously.