The world's cheapest car was driven onto an auto-show stage in India yesterday. It's called the Nano, it has a base price of $2,500, and the idea behind it is to introduce the automotive culture to the millions of Indians who are moving toward middle class status - and eventually to millions more throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Some are saying it will do for India what the Model T did for America.
To which we wish we could say, with the benefit of sad experience from living in a nation overrun by cars since the Model T first appeared exactly a century ago: Does the world really need this? Also, if everyone on the planet can afford to buy a car, will anyone be able to afford the gasoline to drive one?
But we can't say that. For one thing, Tata Motors, which will make the Nano, says it will get 50 miles to the gallon because it's so small. That would put it on the scrimpy end of the gas-guzzling spectrum - better than a Ford Expedition and better, in fact, than the Model T. For another, a nation with an average of two cars for every three people (that's us) has no business telling a nation of two cars per 286 people (that's India) to find another way to get around.
All the same, it makes you wonder what the world's going to run out of first: petroleum or clean air to breathe.
Or will it get too hot to worry about either?