India's Tata Car To Be Offered at $2,500
An Indian car may soon earn a parking place in history alongside Ford's Model T, Volkswagen's Beetle and the British Motor Corp's Mini, all of which put a set of wheels within reach of millions of customers after they rolled onto the scene. Tata Motors is developing a car it aims to sell for about $2,500--the cheapest, by far, ever made.
There is a lot riding on its small wheels. If the yet-to-be-named car is a success when it goes on sale next year, it would herald the emergence of Tata Motors on the global auto scene, mark the advent of India as a global center for small-car production and represent a victory for those who advocate making cheap goods for potential customers at the "bottom of the pyramid" in emerging markets. Most of all, it would give millions of people now relegated to lesser means of transportation the chance to drive cars.
It is a hugely ambitious project--rivals have called it impossible--for any company. But it is audacious for one that hadn't even built cars a decade ago.
For decades Tata Motors has been India's largest commercial vehicle maker--the Tata logo appears on buses, dump trucks, ambulances and cement mixers. Sturdy as elephants, they are a fixture of the Indian landscape. Owners inevitably paint the exteriors in a cheerful riot of bright red, green, orange, blue and yellow and line the un-air-conditioned cabs with teakwood to keep them cooler in India's searing heat.
However ubiquitous, Tata's trucks faced a problem after the Indian government began reforms that opened the Indian economy in 1991: the huge cyclical swings in demand typical for commercial vehicles. To diversify, Tata would enter, at great expense, the less volatile passenger car market.
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