Tiny, affordable cars may seem like a great idea for the environment and the pocketbook. But our guest Linda Blake says putting thousands of Tata Nanos on India's roads is actually a bad idea for India's developing and smog-choked cities. She joins us now to explain.
TIMELINE: CARS FOR THE PEOPLE
Ford Model T
Considered the first affordable car in America, Henry Ford's Model T sold for $850, undercutting competition priced between $2,000 and $3,000. "It will be low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one, and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God's great open spaces," Ford said.
The Rambler's manufacturer, American Motor Corporation, was the only auto company to turn a profit during the recession of 1958. Created cheaply by conserving on steel, it became a car of choice and eventually won a Motor Trends "Car of the Year" award in 1963.
The 1960's forced American car manufacturers to face competition from abroad. Toyota's Tiara was the first of many successful Japanese imports. In 1967, the Tiara sold for $1,670, cheaper than the average American car.
The Volkswagen Beetle, another car in the new wave of imports, sold at around the same price as the Tiara, $1,675. But by 1973, Beetles were selling much better than the Tiara, surpassing sales records of the previous record holder, the Ford Model T.
Just 141,500 of Zastava's Yugos sold in the United States from 1985 to 1991, making it one of the worst-selling cars ever. However, priced at $4,000 when it was first introduced, it was the cheapest car available at the time. In 1991, due to United Nations sanctions on Yugoslavia, the car had to be pulled from the U.S. market. An updated version of the car is still sells in several countries, including Egypt and Poland.
Priced at $11,965, the Aveo is currently the cheapest small car produced by a U.S. automaker. "Well, the Aveo is cheap, but, well, it's cheap," read a recent review of affordable small cars in U.S. News & World Report.
The Nano, produced by India's Tata Motors, is small. It's 10 feet long and five feet wide, and runs at a top speed of about 60 mph. In India, one can purchase the basic model, without radio, air conditioning or air bags, for $2,500 — It meets Indian safety standards and gets an admirable 50 miles to the gallon.