On Monday, the highly publicized Tata Motors Nano automobile was launched in Mumbai. Since 2003 the Tata Motors Nano has been the source of much attention from diverse stakeholders: garnering labels such as the “The People’s Car,” center of a heated protest over land and labor in India, hailed as engineering and development progress, and criticized by environmentalists. I have given voice to all of these arguments in the course of tracking the Nano phenomenon. Given the much awaited launch, I am still, like many others, unable to make a definitive opinion on the likely impact of the Tata Motors Nano in India and the world.
Various blogs and articles have laid out the key arguments surrounding the Tata Motors Nano:
– Those worried with the Tata Motors Nano launch are concerned with the car’s negative social and environmental impacts:
- More cars on the roads = more emissions.
- The Centre for Science and Environment strongly voices its concern over promoting private car ownership will reduce the demand for efficient mass transits.
- Land issues: In 2008, in the state of West Bengal, Tata Motors faced significant hurdles after land acquisition protests emerged at its Singur plant. However, the Tata Motors Nano plant was relocated to Gujarat to continue production goals.
– Supporters of the Nano argue that the car projects positive ‘green’ and development progress:
- Despite concerns of increased car ownership, emissions are much lower than some
European cars (120grams Co2 per kilometer).
- The promotion of Tata Motors Nano on the roads provides a safer alternative to India’s 2-wheelers and rickshaws.
- Somealso argue that the Tata Motors Nano’s worldwide recognition has led India to rise as a leader in innovation and technologycircles. Subsequently, the Tata Motors Nano is likely to support the technology research and development arena that has been the focus on international climate change negotiations.
For better or for worse the Tata Motors Nano is here to stay though amidst uncertainties. Current production forecasts suggest that the Nano will exceed demand in the coming months, despite economic concerns, fluctuating oil prices, and climate change debates. Those interested in purchasing the Tata Motors Nano will have to fill out an application form and a price tagof Rs. 100,000 ($2000 USD). Still affordable in many ways, the uncertainties around the Nano’s future also include whether Tata Motors can maintain its affordability while production costs increase. The debates are likely to continue, as the Nano becomes more visible on India’s roads. Will it gain further supporters or critics?