A fascinating story in today’s New York Times outlines how engineers in Mumbai have succeeded in constructing a $2,500 car.
It’s called the Tata, not because it’s what you may say as you toodle away from the showroom at 30 MPH, but because that’s the name of the guy who runs the company.
My first car was a Ford Maverick, in the color they called “St. Louis Blue.” I could have chosen “Thanks Vermillion” but decided against it. It cost $1,999. My Maverick had an AM radio, manual transmission, manual windows, decent horsepower, capacious trunk. I don’t remember if it had air conditioning. A lot of cars didn’t back then. It was quick and zippy and all that a new automobile should be, including the new car smell. If I had to pass a truck on the highway, it did not complain.
Now let’s look at the Tata Motors new “People’s Car.” It has a rear mounted engine with 30 horsepower. No radio. No power steering. No power windows or AC. One windshield wiper, not two. Wheel bearings strong enough to handle speeds up to 44 MPH. All for $2,500. I assume also that it is tiny and very light, since big heavy cars do not go for that price anymore.
This is clearly the shape of things to come. And that’s, you know, as it should be. If you go to Europe or some places in Northern California, you see people driving what are essentially golf carts on the freeways. Good for them! They are all saving the planet. And you know… we need this planet, don’t we? Even if we have to get around it at 35 miles per hour?
I just hope when we start seeing Tata’s new People’s Car on the highways of America, or tooling around downtown in our streets, the good people who are driving them watch out for the Range Rovers, RAM trucks and GMC monsters bearing down on them, prepared to blow them away in their backdrafts. They won’t find much protection from their hollowed out steering wheel shafts and the teeny-wenny hollow space in front that they call a trunk. Good luck to them is what I say. It’s where we’re all headed, I think. Except by the time American auto makers fabricate something like it, it will probabaly cost three times as much and have a satellite dish on the roof.
Yesterday I crossed a certain threshold. The lease on my Chrysler 300C Hemi eight-cylinder sedan having elapsed, I turned the car back to the dealership and walked away without a vehicle for the first time since I was a teenager. I have no car. I am a city resident and do not need one. I plan to use Zip Cars when I need to. Beyond that, I’m free. My carbon footprint has gone down to single digits, even though it’s still a triple EEE.
One day, though, I’m sure I’ll get a new car. I hope it gets 100 miles per gallon and does not emit bad vibes into the ecosphere and all that. I’d also like it to go from 0 to 60 in about five seconds, though. Have they invented that yet?