When I was here in 2000 it was common to see ox-drawn carts and gas-guzzling Tata ‘Goods Carriers’ that barely made their way up the switchbacks. Now all of the older vehicles have disappeared and they’ve been replaced by newer, sturdier SUV’s and super-powerful haulers. Down in Delhi you can still find some older vehicles, but up here in the hills, those creatures met their day long ago. The reasons for this are three-fold. First of all, Himachal Pradesh is the wealthiest state in India so there are more people with cash here than in the flatlands. Secondly, due to the US outsourcing, India itself is richer. Since Dharamsala is basically a tourist town, a lot of that discretionary income ends up here. Local business owners can afford not only the rig, but also the gas – which is about $3.00/gallon. And finally, in the last few years the Indian government has offered low-interest loans to small businesses specifically for vehicle replacement.
A couple of quick facts (from http://www.mapsofindia.com/):
- The leading brands are: Hindustan Motors, Reva Electric Car Co., Fiat India Private Ltd., Daimler Chrysler India Private Ltd., Tata
- It is expected that by 2030, the Indian car market will be the 3rd largest car market across the globe. Small cars seem to be ruling the roost in the Indian automobile market with over 7.5 million small cars being sold in India in 2006-07.
- World Vehicle Rankings:
- Two wheelers - 2nd largest in the world
- Commercial Vehicle - 4th largest in the world
- Passenger car- 11th largest in the world