by Ryan Avent

It isn't hard to understand the logic behind Tata's "people's car," the Nano, aimed at the emerging Indian middle class. The sclerotic government has an incredibly difficult time making public investments of any sort, leaving buses and trains old and perpetually packed (unfortunately the roads remain bad, as well). To avoid public transit, others walk, bike, or motorcycle around the country's enormous cities. This is likewise unpleasant, and frequently dangerous. With his Nano, Ratan Tata hoped to provide millions of Indians with a measure of comfort and safety, all at a price of 100,000 rupees, or about $2,500.

It's also not difficult to understand how Indians might bristle at warnings from environmentalists suggesting that growing car ownership and use in emerging markets is and will continue to be environmentally devastating. They're not the ones using a quarter of the world's daily oil output. They're not the ones piloting 5 liter engines around, and they didn't have the opportunity to enjoy the technology for a century before telling others to slow down a bit with the driving.