The Nano: Not Just For Music

10 01 2008

By Derek Beres

With the announcement today of the Nano, Tata Motor’s revolutionarily inexpensive automobile, up to a quarter of a million Indian residents will be afforded an opportunity they may not have previously had. Retailing at $2,500 (American), the creation of the Nano was made with one pressing question in mind: Do we really need that? Frills like radios and air conditioners were discarded (though are available in slightly more expensive versions), as well as space – the car measures ten feet long, five wide. With the launch of this uber-cheap four-wheeler, a host of questions immediately arise.

Manufacturing an affordable automobile is certainly a noble idea. But at what cost? Apparently the Nano would not pass emissions tests in the US or Europe, and may not be able to pass in India if the nation’s own laws become tighter, as they are expected to. With so many companies and organizations attempting to “green” their respective industries, how is the creation of a non-efficient auto, with 250,000 annually and planned movements into Africa, Asia and Latin America, helping out that cause?

The Nano is the anti-SUV, hence anti-American in so many ways. As this NY Times feature points out, “The upside is a car expected to retail for as little as the equivalent of $2,500, or about the price of the optional DVD player on the Lexus LX 470 sport utility vehicle.” Not that some American aren’t conscious of the dangers of SUVS – the Smart car, long popular in Europe and retailing at roughly $15,000, will hit our streets in a few months, and hybrid vehicles are gaining in popularity. But our society’s constant battles are reflected in the current presidential bid, admitting our tribal tendencies. For as many hybrids put into production, more SUVs flood the highways. This mixed messaging system cannot continue, and the Nano, while economically bold, is helping confuse the issue.

On top of all this is the question of quality. While its amazing that the company considered exchanging certain products that made as little as a $10 difference in production costs, something feels amiss when reading this: “Tata chose wheel bearings that are strong enough to drive the car up to 45 miles an hour, but they will wear quickly above that speed, reducing the car’s life span but not threatening consumer safety.” While the car’s top speed is 65 mph, what good is a part that is certain to wear out? Is creating an inexpensive auto at the expense of the consumer’s time really a bargain? A lot of people are willing to pay for quality; when the economics do not allow you to do so, it makes sense that more generic items appear. Do we really want this to include something as dangerous and life-threatening as automobiles?

Cars like the Nano and Smart Car will not fare well on roads governed by SUVs. There is no question who is going to be injured, or killed, in an accident. If the octane-guzzling monsters are to remain on the roads, this is a risk that is being chosen, consciously. And given the popularity of SUVs, companies are not going to stop producing them unless the government tightens its emissions laws and automobile requirements. That would involve the transformation of an entire industry, one that appears to be engaged in such anyway: Ford, the epitome of Made in Americanism, is expected to announce their own inexpensive line of autos, based from a manufacturing plant in  – you guessed it – India.

As the lines between economics, national pride and the environment continue to blur, the colors we paint inside are becoming less and less decipherable. When language fails us like this, only problems can follow.

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2 responses

2 02 2008
Autos & Vehicles

Autos & Vehicles

29 04 2008
smart car

the smart car is newly invented in the usa,The reason the smart car gets worse mileage here in the US is because of the catalytic converters used here are inferior to the ones used in europe.

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