Thursday, January 10, 2008

All is not well in the land of Automobilia

Tata, a massive Indian industrial company and purveyor of fine tea, has started production on a new "people's car". It will sell for about 2,550 US dollars.

The Bad.

I visited India for 4 months in 1999. Back then, India did not need more cars. The congestion in the major cities of Mumbai, Delhi and Calcutta made the Fraser Valley's rush hour seem like a leisurely drive in the country. With this car, Tata intends to bring the car within reach of much more of the population. While in the 9 years since I was there, India has dramatically improved the rail and road infrastructure, their road system is still woefully inadequate for the traffic they already have. As well, building more roads does not solve congestion. It never has. Putting a million more cars on their roads is not going to "empower the poor", it is only going to dirty the air.

The Good.

Tata has beaten the western companies at providing something the people actually want. A small, cheap, efficient way to get around. If a car like this was available here, I would probably buy it. Products arise in markets that need them. We have the Smart car, but at almost 10 times the cost of Tata's creation, it doesn't seem to be much of a bargain.

I've railed against GM in the past, saying such things as

"They are doomed."
"They will never turn themselves around because they continue to make bad cars."
"They can't make a good car, so they buy crappy Daewoo's and put they're name on it."

But GM is doing a couple things I like. The Volt is set to be in production for 2010. This is a Plug in Hybrid sports car. Good mileage, good performance, and it is first good looking prototype I've seen from GM in years.

The first crack for GM at hybrids was a bit silly. Hybrid Tahoe?

However their current hybrid system incorporates electric motors into the transmission case which allows allows full electric, fuel engine only, or combined operation. This is similar to the Toyota system to the driver, but without the extra gear system of Toyota's Synergy Drive.

Now GM just has to get off their keister with a high performance low emission diesel engine that is setup for biodiesel.

Diesel Volt Anyone?

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