Tata and Mahindra, driving their cars into U.S. market, dream Bollywood big

A decade ago, few people outside India were aware of the nation's megaconglomerate Tata Group -- or that India had an auto industry. Today Tata Motors (TTM) makes the cheapest car in the world, the Nano (at right), and has become the world's 19th largest automaker.

With Detroit in critical condition, two Indian carmakers are preparing to drive into the U.S. market: Tata and rival Mahindra & Mahindra (MAHMF). Tata Motors's recent $2.3 billion acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover suggests that the subcontinent has Bollywood-sized dreams -- and the resources to make those dreams come true. Tata's and Mahindra's future here looks very promising, provided they learn to solve an age-old conundrum: that the price of gas tends to rise -- and when it does, so does the popularity of cars that use gas efficiently; and that Americans don't like squeezing into tiny, tinny cars.

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