An Australian motoring expert has slammed the world's least expensive car Nano, which was launched in Mumbai Monday, claiming it would increase global pollution and push up fuel prices.
"When India gets to the level of car ownership that we enjoy in the West, which is about 700 cars for every 1,000 people, it could double the number of cars on earth, presently 900 million, to 1.8 billion," Wheels magazine's features editor John Cadogan told ABC Radio.
"That will have profound impact on carbon dioxide production, greenhouse (gases), the environment and health generally," Cadogan added.
However, despite slamming Nano for its perceived adverse impact on the environment globally, the automobile expert was quick to admit that the tiny car, manufactured by the $62.5-billion Tata group of India, was an "absolutely landmark car on a global scale".
The car, priced at Rs.100,000 ($2,000) at factory gates, has attracted worldwide attention ever since it was showcased at an auto show last year, with the Nano website reportedly registering a whopping 40 million hits.
But Cadogan was emphatic that the huge response would not translate into people stepping off giant gas-guzzlers and squeezing into the tiny 624-cc jellybean car with a 35-bhp engine.
"It would be brilliant if that happened but what's going to happen in India is that the Tata Nano is going to put new car ownership on the shopping list for a bunch of people who just haven't been able to afford a car in the past," Cadogan said.
"So we're not going to be replacing gas-guzzling 4x4s with fuel-efficient cars, we already do that in the West. What's going to happen is a lot more cars are going to get on the road and that's going to happen in India and China and it will be a profound change."
The Australian also believed Nano would impact fuel prices.
"Oil is running out and in fact we're at about peak oil production now. China and India are running to the party and the keg is half empty," he said.
The three-metre long car, which sells for less than A$3,000, cannot be sold in Australia as it does not meet all its safety compliance standards.
However, the Tata group isn't looking at Australia currently, focusing first on meeting domestic demand, and earmarking Europe and the US as future markets with enhanced safety features that meet global standards.
(Paritosh Parasher can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org )