Like most of the office I’m enormously excited by the arrival of the Tata Nano – we’ve been giving it the sort of attention normally reserved for a new Ferrari. On first impressions I’d say that, although we’re only ten days into 2008, we’ve already seen the best idea of the year. Tata has done amazingly well to deliver so much transport for so little money, and it looks set to be an enormous hit when it goes on sale in India.
But what effect is it actually going to have on the subcontinent’s roads and air quality? My kneejerk reaction is always to orientate my opinions to approximately 180-degrees of difference with those of the professional green lobby – most of which seems to regard the Nano as being the climate-changing spawn of the devil.
But the fact that many intelligent, well-informed Indians also seem to have doubts about the wisdom of flooding the nation’s already-packed roads with hundreds of thousands of new cars gives me pause for thought. If the Nano is going to be the success it deserves to be – and the catalyst to India’s economy that it should represent as affordable private transport – then the country’s road infrastructure is going to have to catch up, fast.