RATAN TATA drove the Tata Nano onto the map on the 10th of January and I started reading how that €1700 four-seater rice burner would actually harm the environment because it was priced so affordably (less than a DVD player costs in a Lexus in Ireland) because millions of people throughout India, Africa and South America would now start driving. No matter that several of the critics drove Hemi-powered Dodge vehicles (see one at right) or were range riding in their Ford F150 pick-up trucks, the staple of the American West where many of my college friends have their homesteads. "Listen, I fought to defend our oil," friend Randy has told me. His F-150 is 6.3 metres long, two metres wide and seats five without wrinkling dresses on the way to church, located 43 miles away. Randy has the standard 5.4 litre engine and he gets around 20 mpg while out shooting rattlesnakes on his spread. He might achieve 24 mpg on the way to church--once a week--and again get highway mileage when heading down to the shops, 17 miles from his front door.
My brother drives a Ford F-150 too. He needs the traction to hop around 18 different properties that he maintains as a groundskeeper. It's unfathomable to him when asked to reconsider his seat height, torque, or truck bed dimensions. He needs all those things to do his job. The height gives him a perch point when pruning pear trees (he has 135 fruit trees to prune every fall), the torque gets him unstuck when axle-deep in the local creek, and the bed in the back hauls his double-wide riding mower out and about the campus of Millersville State University.
Pat won't brake to allow a Nano out from a side street because his driving style is hard-wired from birth. He remembers uncles and aunts making snide comments about imported cars that could not reach terminal velocity when using the acceleration lane of the interstate highways lacing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. So from my perspective here in Europe, watching both the five billion potential customers of the Tato Nano and the one billion people who live in the developed world, it seems that you can easily separate north from south by their seat height. Those who ride high in their SUVs won't easily dismount from a happy perch that has served them well through generations. And those who lust for their first ride, in an affordable environmentally-friendly small car, will never see the point of buying America's top-selling pick-up trucks.
Tony Kinsella -- "Double standards on cars and climate change take us down the wrong road" in The Irish Times, 22 January 2008.