Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Tata Nano

Automobiles are one of the single largest things we do.  Transportation is a huge slice of the economy.  Where roads and bridges can and cannot go is a huge social issue.  The design of cities, land use, environmental concerns, tax laws, sustainable wage… all these things are touched and shaped by cars.  So cars a pretty good pulse on society.

Enter the Tata Nano.

In case you live in a cave, the Tata company in an Indian super company. It includes 98 companies selling in 85 countries. 20% of global steel production is by Tata.  Tata’s dealings make up 3.2% of India’s GDP, making them the de facto majority shareholder of an entire country, much like GE here.

Despite all that, when Tata announced that their automobile division would make a car for $2500 no one really cared.  It was assumed that they would make yet another auto rickshaw.  But, Tata had been underestimated.  What they produced was not some spindly three-wheeler. It was a real car in every way. Observe the specs:

SOHC 624cc Fuel injected Twin

12″ wheels

4 wheel hydraulic brakes

Meets current India and EEU emissions and safety requirements.

So naturally, everyone hated it.  Now, I shouldn’t say everyone. The people of India were pretty excited, actually.  But people who will never buy one are really upset.

The number one complaint: because it is so cheap people who didn’t own cars before will buy them increasing global warming and reducing available fuel supply, raising prices.

Well, thats just plain dumb.  People who can afford the Tata Nano are using motorcycles and auto rickshaws.  The vast portion of which are fitted with early model 2 cycle engines.  World wide, two strokers make up about 5% of the engines.  And 32% of the pollution.  Replacing wheezing 2 strokes with Nanos reduces emissions.

Number two complaint: its not safe.

Again, just plain dumb.  Nothing is 100% safe. Life is risk. Successful life is risk management. Yes, driving a Tata Nano is not as safe as hidding in bunker.  Who cares? The people who are buying Nanos are people who were driving motorcycles previously.  They are safer in Nanos than on motorcycles.  Again net reduction in problems.  They also meet EEU standards.  Since pollution is based on parts per million of pollutants rather than pollutants per car, even that doesn’t tell the whole story.  A Tata Nano puts out significantly less pollution per car than a Volkswagen Golf, because the Tato has a significantly smaller engine of approximately the same efficiency per cc.

Third complaint: They will reduce global fuel supply.  *sigh*  Ok, there might be some truth in this, but I just can’t get my underwear in bunch about it.  As long as SUVs are the prefered form of transportation in the US, I don’t think anyone in the US has right to complain about a 12′ long car that gets over 50 MPG.

Fourth complaint: No, I’m not joking.  People really complain about this: the wheels are too small.  This is too is very dumb. To this issue and all the above I raise the issue of the kei car.  Kei cars are a special legal qualification of cars in Japan.  If a car meets certain kei car guidelines it can be sold as a kei car, saving both the purchaser and the producer a bundle of money. The requirements are 11′ feet long, 4.5′ wide, 6.5″ tall (they make kei spec vans and four by fours as well, hence the generous height) and a 650cc engines.  In one form or another the Japanese have been making kei cars for more than 50 years.  As of 2004, they were making 2 million of them a year.   Many a kei jidosha (light car) has the similar features to the Nano.

So why has the Nano raised such ire in a country it can’t even be sold in?

Here’s the human issue that the first paragraph eluded to: though people complain that they shouldn’t be sold because they are unsafe, I never here this argument about motorcycles and bicycles, which offer no protection what-so-ever in a crash.  So there must be an underlying emotional reason that people feel they are unsafe.  I think people have an emotional need to drive a very large gas guzzling car.  The existence of people who don’t have that need offends them, so they invent data (which is wrong) that says those people shouldn’t be alowed to buy the car.

The person who drives a car purely out of regard for safety and makes the majority of their other decisions out of a sense of what is safe, is leading a small boring life.  Relationships consist of risk.  People who take no risks have no relationships.  So these people end up pretty unfulfilled.  When they see people taking risks and getting more enjoyment out of their life, it really pisses them off, so they try and legislate any risks others might want to take about of existence.

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May 26, 2008 - Posted by | Ecology, Microcar, Small Car | , , , , , , ,

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