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A people’s car that few want

MUMBAI, India — When it was introduced in early 2009, the egg-shaped Tata Nano was billed as a modern-day people’s car, an ultracheap vehicle that would bring greater mobility to the masses of India and, eventually, the world. But those ambitions have stalled — for now, at least.

Though car sales have shot up across India, because of an economy that is growing at nearly 9 percent annually, sales of the Nano have been falling for the last four months. Its maker, Tata Motors, sold only 509 Nanos to its dealers in November — a stark contrast to the 9,000 it delivered in July. Last year, when media coverage and auto writers’ praise were stoking demand, Tata had orders for more than 200,000 Nanos, which has a list price starting at about $2,900.

But as Tata has struggled with problems like production delays and fires in some of the cars, rival cars like the Maruti Suzuki Alto have overtaken the Nano. The Alto, which starts at $6,200 here, had sales of more than 30,000 in November, making it India’s best-selling car last month.

Analysts say the Nano situation demonstrates it may not be sufficient to make cheaper, smaller versions of existing products to win over that broad base of customers. Companies, they say, must also make sure the products are widely available and are seen as safe, useful and alluring.

San Diego house burned down, for safety’s sake

SAN DIEGO — The authorities in San Diego County burned down a house filled with explosives on Thursday after determining that removal of the volatile clutter of chemicals, detonators and grenades would be too dangerous.

Officials discovered the hazardous house in Escondido last month after a gardener stepped on a homemade bomb in the yard. When county sheriffs and FBI agents tried to enter, they found so many explosive materials lying about, in containers and loose piles, that they abandoned their search.

Later, a bomb squad collected samples including PETN, which was used in 2001 when a man on an airplane tried to ignite a bomb in his shoe, and HMBT, which can explode when stepped on.

The house was rented by George Jakubec, 54, an unemployed software consultant. He has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of making explosives and robbing three banks with firearms. Prosecutors have declined to say why they think Jakubec assembled the jumbled arsenal, saying on Thursday that “the investigation is ongoing.”

Wisconsin and Ohio forfeit money for rail lines

Ohio and Wisconsin’s loss of $1.2 billion in federal stimulus money for rail projects will be California, Florida and 11 other states’ gain.

Ohio and Wisconsin sought and won the stimulus money earlier this year to build new rail lines to create jobs, ease traffic and help the environment. But both states elected new Republican governors last month who vowed to kill the train projects, arguing that they were boondoggles that would require annual state subsidies to operate.

Now both states, which have been hit hard by the economic downturn, are losing the money. The federal Department of Transportation announced Thursday that it was rescinding the $810 million that had been awarded to Wisconsin to build a train line from Milwaukee to Madison, and the $385 million that was awarded to Ohio to build a train line linking Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland.