In the 1960s, the Volkswagen Beetle was looked upon with scorn by Detroit as a fly on the hood of the real car industry. Few anticipated the change that it would bring, as a generation of boomers jumped at the chance to buy a new car for under $1,600, far less than Ford's cheapest offering, the $2,200 Comet. Within a few years, the Big Four were forced to bring out their own compacts, such as the reviled rust magnet, the Chevy Vega.
Now, a large Indian car manufacturer, the Tata Group (TTM), is pushing the same envelope, aiming to blanket the world with a $2,000 car, the Tata Nano. That's right -- two grand, about the cost of a high-quality bicycle. The first Nanos rolled off the production line earlier this month.