IMPENDING $2500 CAR STIRS WORLD INTEREST
India’s widely respected industrialist, Ratan Tata, is expected to introduce his $2500 4-door car possibly as early as January at Delhi’s Auto Expo., according to the Financial Times. Speculation about the unique vehicle has circulated for several years and while the initial car will not meet emissions or safety standards of industrialized countries, Tata’s use of low cost India engineers and labor and every conceivable new way to cut costs opens the door to many millions of people in under developed countries seeking to move up the personal transportation ladder. The Tata car program also has broad implications for the World auto industry in general..
The current lowest price car produced in India, the Suzuki Maruti 800 reportedly sells for over $4000. It is an 800cc, 3-cylinder, 37 hp car weighing 1466 lb, has 85 inch wheelbase and is 135 inches long . Top speed is 75 mph.. Comparative details for the $2500 Tata car, however, are not available but analysts believe it will be in the same size ballpark as the Suzuki car with its “tightly spaced interior”.. ..
Tata managing director, Ravi Kant, reportedly said the $2500 car “will be a good looking car you will want to buy” It is to be produced at a plant in West Bengal with a capacity of 250,000 units per year many of which will be sold with focused marketing and finance methods in rural areas. It was reported nearly two years ago that the car would be shipped in kit form to be assembled by dealers in response to retail orders and would provide color choices for exterior panels. It could not be learned, however, whether this remains in the plan. .
Personal transportation is progression in emerging countries from walking and riding on
animals to bicycles to scooters to motorcycles and 3-wheelers and eventually to 4-wheel vehicles.. Adding dimension to this are indications from Tata, which now sells larger cars in Africa and a few European markets, that the new car could be upgraded for compliance with higher emissions and safety standards for marketing in many markets. ..
Surely all auto makers will be intensely interested in the design, materials, manufacturing and perhaps also the distribution system Mr. Tata has planned regardless of the price point and characteristics of his pet project car.
A recent news story reported that Ford suffers a $3000 loss on each US made Focus model car (Ford’s smallest US market vehicle) but has to sell many of them to hold within its required CAFÉ (corporate average fuel economy) limit, hence, the question of what new type car produced where will fill this need at a profit rather than loss. .
About the author: Bob Brooks is a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers and long time automotive technology journalist specializing in powertrains and fuels.