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World's cheapest car, from Tata, set for production

A good way to build a cheap car: take out the airbags, power steering, rear seatbelts, antilock brakes, most cylinders, all frills, and most safety equipment. You'll end up the Tata Nano.

The 2009 Tata Nano
The 2009 Tata Nano

Here's a good way to build a cheap car: take out the airbags, power steering, rear seat belts, antilock brakes, and most cylinders, all frills, and other standard safety equipment. Do that and you'll end up with a four-door, four-seater, 33-hp two-cylinder car that you can sell to a hungry market with decidedly low expectations for about 100,000 rupees ($1,988). This still seems kind of expensive when you consider that you can buy a new Kia Rio for $10,000.

Often called the Model T of the 21st century, the Tata Nano is expected to go into production for the growing Indian automotive market on March 23, with orders being accepted in April.

According to the company's Web site, "The Nano's safety performance exceeds current regulatory requirements." That may be true for India, but lack of seatbelts in the rear is enough to bar it from the U.S. market.

The EU may have more strict emissions standards that the U.S., but apparently tragically weaker safety standards, and the vehicle is expected to retail in Europe for 5,000 euros ($6,347) next year.

While Tata says it conforms with Euro IV emission standards, it doesn't say much in terms of crash tests. While we don't know what a Nano vs. Land Rover side impact test will look like, its diminutive size and weight (1,300 lbs) means it probably conforms nicely to European pedestrian safety laws.

Source: WSJ