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The Nano by Indian automaker Tata. The vehicle is touted as the world's cheapest car and enjoys near-cult status in India - 


Bob Moon: These hard times might call for tightening your belt -- especially if it's a seat belt. After some setbacks, India's biggest carmaker, Tata Motors, is launching the world's cheapest car today. If nothing else, the arrival of the stripped-down Nano is well-timed. Raymond Thibodeaux has more from Mumbai.

Raymond Thibodeaux: The congested streets of Mumbai, like most of India's big cities, are likely to get even busier after the launch of the Tata Nano. Known here as the People's Car, it costs about $2,000, and that puts the dream of car ownership within the reach of millions of India's poor.

Adil Darukhanawala: The one sure, sure thing . . . to show they have made it big in life is to go and own a car.

Adil Darukhanawala is one of Indian's auto industry analysts:

Darukhanawala: For India, the market is here, and that's the reason why you suddenly have a car for motorcycle money, and millions want to have that.

It was conceived six years ago, when India's economy was blazing along at growth rates of 8 [percent] and 9 percent. But the Nano's rollout comes as India's economy is slowing down. And the global credit crunch has hit the auto industry particularly hard.

At a launch today here in Mumbai, Tata Motors chief Ratan Tata sounded optimistic. He says the economic downturn only makes the Nano more relevant -- not only in India, but also in other developing nations in Asia and Africa.

For now, Tata's biggest problem is keeping up with demand, expected to be at least a million cars a year. Only about 1,500 Nanos are currently available. The wait time for one: about a year.

In Mumbai, I'm Raymond Thibodeaux for Marketplace.