I agree, Tim. As I did the research for this story, I suspected India is making more of a defensive move rather than an offensive move. As the company becomes more prosperous, its citizens will naturally be drawn to improved vehicles. I think the Indian government wants to increase the likelihood those improve vehicles will be made in India.
What will be interesting is to see if anything like the Nano can ever be allowed in the USA. Our "safety" people seem to be absolutely certain that we are all so stupid that we must never be allowed to take any risk at all. I am not certain just exactly how we let so much freedom slip away, but the truth is that we are not nearly as free as we used to be. Unfortunately those making the decisions seem to be a collection of fearful cowards, unwilling to consider that perhaps somebody might be in posession of enough skill to handle some things safely.
So let the folks who choose to drive a Nano drive one, but, of course, not on the faster roads where it could not keep up the pace. There is a place for smaller cars, and they certainly should be allowed to drive there.
For a car from India to survive in an export to the US, it would have to be a phenomenal vehicle at a great price. They will only have one chance to break into the market, and it will need to go off without a hitch.
I was thinking along the same lines, Alex. While the Nano is not a car I'd like to be in, it was designed a an opportunity for the new middle class (as defined in India). They would be safer than their scooters piled with the whole family and / or luggage.
Of course after watching Ice Road Truckers - Dangerous Roads, I think I wouldn't even want to be in an American car there - maybe a Sherman tank instead!
The Tata Nano is to the Indian auto industry what the Yugo was to the country of its original. Well, that's not entirely fair. India does have a robust auto industry -- much more than does Yugoslavia. As well, the Nano was an honest attempt to fill a market niche. I think India's challenge will be building for the export market. That's the same challenge China has faced, though they have risen to it to some extent: The Chinese are reportedly importing a $45,000 electric car called the Coda into the United States.
Good point, Beth. It will take some time before India can revamp their auto industry to world-class standards. However, this may be a defensive move. As India becomes more prosperous, its consumers may look beyond domestic cars. High-quality domestic cars could keep the sale inside India.
If India is really serious about this, it looks like it could be a market opportunity for U.S.-based (and European, of course) CAD and PLM vendors along with automation and control companies. While you can applaud India's efforts, building up a test infrastructure that can really have an impact in boosting automotive vehicle quality is not a small endeavor. It will take years and many iterations of standards, processes, and tools to get that in place. In the mean time, I hope Detroit takes note and stays on top of its game.
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