January 10, 2008
The $2500 Car
Posted by Christine Hurt

I'm not sure what is more ironic -- that the car industry is now focused on making smaller rather than bigger vehicles or that as developed countries ponder how to get cars off the road, developing countires are trying to get more cars on the road.  India's Tata Motors Ltd. is getting a lot of press about its plans to sell its "Nano" car later this year for $2500.  This price tag will allow many more middle-class Indians to be able to afford a new, entry-level automobile.  I'm ashamed to say that my first kneejerk response to this news was, "But the last thing we need is for everyone to have a car."

Sure, as long as I already have a car!

I've always heard that conservation is a luxury of developed countries, and I guess that is true.  Obviously, the costs of automobiles given current technology are high -- environmental costs, fuel dependence, but I think we've forgotten what the benefits of automobiles are.  Cars allow the unemployed to look for work in a far larger geographical area than before, and even allow the unemployed to move to other areas to find work.  Being able to drive to work as opposed to walking or riding a bicycle reduces commuting time (and laundry time) and creates more free time to be with family and children.  Sure, it's easy for us to say that we should choose to ride our Trek bikes in nice, safe bike lanes to work for the environment and our own health, but that ignores the reality of most "unplugged" commutes in the developing world.  Cars allow people to visit family, have vacations and take children to school. 

No, the planet can probably not support six billion cars, but I still think this development should be applauded.

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