Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bodacious Tatas- Cheap, Cute, Perky. Oh, yeah.

bodacious tatasI couldn't resist. Motor Torque Magazine reports on the much awaited launch of India's Tata Nano automobile. Not having a history of ripping customers off with unnecessary options, Tata Motors chairman Raman Tata designed the car himself to fulfill a need instead of to create one. Detroit, pay attention. This thing will get its owners from point A to point B affordably and keep them dry and comfortable doing it.

The 33bhp 0.6-liter car will cost the equivalent of $2,500. It's been designed to make four-wheel automotive transport available to those in developing countries. Beats the ubiquitous mopeds and motorbikes hands-down. The twin-cylinder petrol engine drives the rear wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox. Standard models don't have air conditioning or power steering. Airbags are not included, belts are. There is no passenger-side mirror, and only one windscreen wiper. Wheels are pushed as far into the car´s corners as possible, to maximize interior space.

Remember when you could buy an automaker's base model- a stripper- brand new, for next to nothing? You got vinyl seats, but you got them cheap. You can't buy much of a used car here in the US for this kind of money now. US consumers, automakers and regulatory agencies take note- this thing is shiny enough, roomy enough, fast enough, and safe enough to serve as a first car for many. Though it's not enough car for the highway, it's a good city car, a grocery getter. It's not overtly sexy, it's not overhyped, it's just right. Let's hope the Nano has a good start, brisk sales, and a minimum of quality problems. If it does, I predict a cult following for this new people's car. It'd be nice to see automotive Form Follow Function for a change.