Want to see the future of transportation? Spend 96 hours in India.
What is disruption? Ask the clickbait mills and the sheep who retweet them, and thy name is Tesla. Everyone knows the Tesla story. Autonomy! Electrification! Superchargers! Musk! If it weren’t for Tesla, we’d still be waiting for our electric and autonomous future to dawn. The Model 3 will disrupt, just as Tesla has disrupted the entire automotive sector, and now you can own one for only $35,000, plus options. It’s all true, but it’s only half right.
Go to India and Renault will sell the other half of disruption for just under $4,000.
This French-Indian disruptor is called the Kwid, and it’s the opposite of the Tesla Model 3 in almost every way. It lacks any of the technology or performance that earn cars placement on magazine covers. It’s a front-wheel-drive, 3-cylinder, 800-cc, four-door compact crossover (CUV) with plastic cladding. Boxes ticked? None. And yet it is the most important car in the largest segment in what will soon be the third largest car market in the world.
The reason it’s so important is not because of its price, but because of what it represents, which is why the unlikely story of the Kwid says as much about Tesla’s future as it does about India’s.
Let’s go to India and find out why.
Those invested in the traditional disruption narrative would have you believe it’s definition is limited to autonomy, electrification, and still undefined pitch words like mobility—a first-world view easily digested in the United States, whose 321 million citizens comprise only 4% of the world population. Throw in similar markets like Canada, Western Europe, Japan, and Australia and we’re still only talking about about 14% of the world’s 7.3 billion people.
For the other 86% of human souls, disruption means other things. In the developing world, its manifestation might take the form of a bicycle. In places like China, it might be having the right to own a car, or a place to park one. In India, where the average wage remains a fraction of those in the first world, it starts with an affordable car that isn’t a complete piece of junk.
And that’s where the Kwid comes in.