The Little Car That Couldn't

What the failure of Tata's Nano teaches us about aspirational purchases in the developing world

Michael Rubenstein / Redux

Sales of the touted "people's car" have been low.

Before the Tata Nano ever hit the roads, environmentalists issued ominous predictions about the impact of the world's cheapest car. If Tata Motors achieved its goal of shifting to the Nano some of the 13 million Indians annually who buy motorcycles, it would add hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of cars to the country's congested roads every year. Global efforts to cut carbon emissions and curb climate change would be for naught. The Nano became an emblem of the Malthusian downside of emerging-market success: increasing pressure on the world's limited resources.

We can all relax now. More than two years...

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