Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Century of People's Cars

NEW DELHI - For millions of people in the developing world, Tata Motors' new $2,500 four-door subcompact — the world's cheapest car — may yield a transportation revolution as big as Henry Ford's Model T.

Well, how does the 2008 Tata Nano (pictured above) compare to the Model T? See the chart above (click to enlarge) from the Car Blog (via Tom McMahon), which also includes the 1958 Volkswagen.

Notice that a 1908 Ford Model T would cost $19,000 in today's dollars, it was a real gas guzzler (15 mpg), and its top speed was 45 mph. The good old days are now. Not 1908.


At 1/16/2008 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prof, do you know what Ford paid his workers in 2008 dollars? I would love to see that compared with what the makers of this thing are getting. I don't have a point, I just bet people are making much more now.

Of course, the farther you go back in time, the less "2008 dollars" means. There are other factors than just inflation, such as relative buying power.

I agree though and you have a good point. People are much richer and things are much better now - even in India!

At 1/16/2008 2:46 PM, Blogger KauaiMark said...

Think they'll will show up here in the US before my Saturn gives up the ghost?

At 1/17/2008 9:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I’m not a professor, but I work in and study the auto industry. Here’s some information.

Henry Ford instituted his famous $5-a-day wage in 1914. Since the working days were 10-hours- long, that’s comes out to 50 cents-per-hour or $10.37 per-hour in 2007 dollars using a CPI calculator. Ford’s Model Ts of that era cost about $300 each; using a CPI calculator that’s about $6220 in 2007 dollars. Obviously, as you suspected, both labor and vehicles cost much more now than then even after considering inflation.

At 1/17/2008 10:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is great that India is building a car for the poor, but I don't think it will be an effective means for transportation until the infrastructure in India improves.

At 1/17/2008 10:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just recognized a difference in price between my calculations and the original post. Here's my source (quoted below) from About Ford: The Model T. FYI, black was the only color offered because it dried fast and that was necessary for assembly-line production.

"The Model T was an automobile built by the Ford Motor Co. from 1908 until 1927, the first widely affordable mass-produced car. Assembly-line production methods introduced by Henry Ford in 1913 enabled the price of this five-seat touring car to drop from $850 in 1908 to $300 in 1925. Over 15 million Model T's were built. The car was offered in several body styles, all mounted on a standard chassis. Various colors were initially available, but after 1913 its sole color was black. It was replaced by the popular Model A in 1928."

At 1/17/2008 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


No, unless you count it as a golfcart with windows. Japan's tried, and thankfully Tata will join in the ranks.


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