Tata Motors: Power To The People
Ford Model T. Volkswagen Type 1. Tata People's Car. Tata what? Next fall, Indian automaker Tata plans to introduce a $2,500 car to put India's masses on wheels, just as Ford and VW did in their home countries. The New York Times reports that Tata is one of several automakers who want a piece of the entry-level pie in what will soon be the world's fastest-growing car market. (Maruti Suzuki currently controls more than 50 percent of that market, with models as low as $5k.) As Tata moves even further down market, they're joined by Honda, VW (Skoda), Toyota, Renault-Nissan and Ford. While critics are worried about the safety of such cheap cars, the automakers all say they'll meet local safety standards (how reassuring is that?). Needless to say, environmentalists are expressing concerns that more cars on India's roads will exacerbate India's air pollution problem.
I'm going to go out on a limb a say there are no rules of the road in India. Ones that are followed at least.
One of the only times I've ever truly feared for my life was my first time as a passenger on a rural Indian highway. There is really only one lane, and everybody drives on it regardless of which direction they're headed. Drivers there believe it is a sign of skill to see how close they can get to approaching cars before moving to their side, off the road and on to the dirt shoulder (which are populated by pedestrians and bicycles, even way out in the country) The closer you get to a head-on collision while actually avoiding it, the better driver you are. I have photos.
Having driven in India recently--largely because I was told it was impossible for a Westerner to do, which was just enough to set me off--I can say there is one rule of the road: the larger vehicle has the right of way. One thing that makes Indian traffic stunning and the accident rate equally so, though I doubt that in a thousand miles of driving I ever got over 60, is the traffic mix, which ranges from goat carts, donkeys and elephants (and endless pedestrians) to overloaded buses and huge Tata trucks with cargos piled so high they sometimes simply fall over. And the mix doesn't vary whether you're on a Delhi street or what in Indian passes for a superhighway. The "superhighways" are the few divided four-lanes, which aren't in very good condition, but what I particularly liked was that there's often opposite-direction traffic on _your_ side of the median divider--people who either don't know that they're supposed to be on the other side or perhaps who figure they aren't going far enough to make it worth crossign all the way over. But I did see one Cayenne, in Delhi--fanciest car I saw in India, and the diesel Ford Explorer that I was driving was considered a luxury car.