The cheapest car on earth--the Nano, built by India's Tata Motors--will soon be on the road, after months of delay. The price is 100,000 rupees (just under US$2,000) and what you get is basic 4-wheeled transportation, even smaller than the SmartCar.
The car meets India's safety and emissions standards but would need extensive and expensive modification to be sold in European or U.S. markets. For starters, it would have to have seat belts as standard equipment.
Tata's target is the growing middle class in India. Can Tata encourage families to trade up from motorcycles to the Nano, given the current global economic crisis? And will Tata be able to export Nanos to China and other nations with growing middle-class populations? I hope so, but 2009 and 2010 may not be the right time. A lot depends on Tata's pricing and financing power.