Two manufacturers have caught the eye at the current round of car shows – and they’re not from Europe or the United States. At the Delhi Auto Expo, Tata has been been breaking visitor records with its Nano car – at 100,000 rupees (less than £1,500) a time. In Detroit, meanwhile, Toyota is talking the sort of language which is more familiar to transport campaigners.

The Nano is cheap because it has eschewed most of the electronics of the typical product for affluent markets. As this picture from core 77 shows, there’s no air conditioning, no power steering, no air bag, a 600cc engine, and so on. It doesn’t meet for Western markets, and Western motorists would get impatient with a top speed of 43 mph – but it isn’t designed for those markets. Looking at the picture, in fact, it reminds one of the Citroen 2CV or the early Volkswagen ‘beetle’, both also designed to bring motoring to mass markets, albeit in an era when people worried less about climate change. In fact, Tata’s website, like the Volkswagen, is even calls the ‘Nano’ the people’s car.


From the perspective of the affluent markets, some of the language used by Toyota at the Detroit motor show was extraordinary. As The Guardian reported:

I believe we will all remember 2007 as the year the world responded to a wake-up call too long ignored,” said Toyota’s president, Katsuaki Watanabe, in a speech at the Detroit motor show. He said roads, as well as cars, would need to change to meet green concerns: “We foresee mixed mobility combining intelligent highways and mass transit, bike paths and short-cut walking routes, recharging kiosks and hydrogen fuel stations.”

The product part of their proposition is about vehicles powered part by electricity and partly (slightly higher risk) by biofuels, and believe that they’ll be selling ‘significant numbers’ of so-called plug-in vehicles in two years. It’s worth just remembering that Toyota now sells more cars worldwide than any other manufacturer and is also the most profitable car company.

The Americans, meanwhile, despite some green rhetoric from executives, have produced more of the same old. GM unveiled the Cadillac CTS-V – which can accelerate to 60mph in 4.5 seconds. And not to be outdone, Ford and Chrysler have launched the F-150 and the Dodge Ram – both heavyweight pick-up trucks.