Interesting Automotive News

A little less than a year ago, I wrote a post titled Any Color as Long as it’s White, about the project at Tata Motors (India) to create the cheapest car ever built–cheaper even, in inflation-adjusted terms, than the Ford Model T. Here’s the car. See commentary from India, here and here.

And in China, a company called BYD Auto is launching a plug-in hybrid which is supposed to be available for sale (in China) this summer. Interestingly, the parent company of BYD is a battery manufacturer.

These cars won’t be available in the U.S. anytime soon, and will likely never be available in the U.S. in their present forms. There are issues of regulatory compliance, of consumer expectations, and of the need for a sales and support structure. But any U.S. auto executives who think that these announcements aren’t very relevant to them need to do some remedial reading. In their book The Innovator’s Solution, Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor point out that disruptive innovations–those destined to change the structure of an industry–tend to attack from below. They usually first appear in a form that is in some ways inferior to the existing dominant technologies, and hence are unlikely to get the attention or respect of industry incumbents. I think it is quite likely that innovations developed by companies such as Tata and BYD–whether product design innovations or manufacturing process innovations–will in the not-to-distant future have a significant impact on the U.S. auto industry.

6 thoughts on “Interesting Automotive News”

  1. think Malthus! forget food. He was wrong on the future of food but extrapolate to natural resources. India plans to build and sell one million of theose cars per year. Figure oil needs for gas and then pollution into air. Then add on China…more wealth for China dn India=more use of oil and much more pollution.

  2. Joseph…a valid concern, but think also about the resources that might be *saved* by these cars. First, the human resource of *time* for Indian and Chinese people who will be able to get where they are going more quickly than they presently are. Related: a reduction in poverty due to the ability of farmers to sell their crops in a broader array of markets.

    Second…I don’t know how much animal transportation there still is in India and China, but I bet it’s a fair amount. What is the energy balance of a small car versus a mule or a bullock?…if you consider the energy component of feeding it, pumping the water for the irrigation of the crops with which it is fed, etc.

    Finally…if the Chinese plug-in hybrid really works, and makes its way to the U.S. and Europe, there will be significant energy savings in these developed economies.

  3. Joseph Hill,

    think Malthus! forget food. He was wrong on the future of food but extrapolate to natural resources.

    Malthus is still wrong. We alter the availability of “natural” resources with technology even easier than the alter the availability of food. The entire idea of resource depletion is a fallacy born from misconception that oil, iron or any other “natural” resource exist in some discrete form in finite quantities like flour in barrel. They don’t. All “natural” resources are artificial and are created by technology. We routinely use sources of energy and material that pervious generations never imagined. Our decedents will do the same.

    The only true resource is human minds. We should do everything here and know to free up those minds for more mental work. If we do that, we’ll always have more natural resources than we know what to do with.

  4. I can’t believe that you guys are wasting time responding to Joseph Hill’s off-topic comment. The guy is a troll, and what he says has nothing to do with the content of your post.

    Good post, by the way, and I agree on the initial inferiority which wins in the end. Tongue in cheek writers would say MSFT falls into that category, too :)

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