Note: The following article documents the launch & existence of a revolutionary product which was rejoiced by several countries. The purpose of documenting it is only to archive it for posterity and any resemblance to satire or sarcasm is purely co-incidental.
Back in 2004-05, Ratan Tata had taken the world by surprise when he revealed his idea of developing a car for less than Rs 1 lakh ($2000). While the Indians who always revered Tatas waited for it in anticipation, serious auto-makers like Suzuki & Ford had ridiculed the idea.
However, one country remained all ears and it not only wanted to develop such a car for it’s own people, but wanted to take on the Tatas in this game and launch before Tata did. It was Pakistan. Within few months of Ratan Tata’s announcement of his pet project, an auto company called Habib Motors of Pakistan raced ahead and launched Pakistan’s first ingeniously engineered 4-wheeler aptly named “Sitara” (means Star) costing just Rs 1.59 lakh.
Pakistani journalists were overjoyed and the next day’s newspapers blared “Pakistan beats India“. Social network users of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran flooded Orkut & Myspace with this fantastic achievement, and proud leaders like Musharraf rejoiced this news by reinstating the pride of Pakistan. (There were rumours of Mulayam Singh Yadav also rejoicing it.)
The design process involved during development of the Sitara car deserves a special case study running into several hundreds of pages, but I will try to touch upon some of the most interesting aspects of it.
After several days of brainstorming sessions, the engineering team finally decided to have an open top since most of the foreign soap operas downloaded and watched by Pakistani youth had given them the perception the an “open top” car increased its wow factor and meant “status symbol”.
Initially intended to offer only manual start, the engineers later decided to incorporate self start in order to keep up with the “status symbol” factor of the car.
The rugged design and tough metal had drastically increased the weight but after lots of optimizations, the weight was brought down to just 350 kg so that even if the car breaks down in the middle of a deserted highway, one could easily push (thanks to the light weight) it for the next 200 km to reach the nearest service station. Although the top speed could have been 220 kmph, the engineers decided to limit it to just 60 kmph so that the driver and passengers could feel the cool breeze tingling through their clothes and be one with the nature.
There doors were avoided not just for cost reasons but to save time as well. Opening and closing a door takes 15 seconds. Doing it 4 times a day adds to 1 minute. For 1 year, it accounts to 365 mins = 6 hours. Since it is a rugged wannabe SUV, it is intend to last for atleast 50 years. Hence the customer saves 6*50 = 300 hours of precious time due to the elimination of doors!!
Thanks to the light weight and aerodynamic design (to reduce drag), the fuel efficiency was a whopping 25 kmpl !! The engineering team could have easily developed a 50 liter or even 100 liter fuel tank but after careful considerations chose only 10 liter fuel tank so that even if someone steals the car, he would not be able to go out of city limits before running out of fuel, and remain within the same police station jurisdiction, hence making the cop’s job easy.
All these irresistible features had attracted huge interest and the company went on to sell 60 cars (yes, sixty) over the next few years before shutting it down due to humanitarian reasons. It was not just an engineering marvel but a symbol of pride, and true to the newspaper headlines, Pakistan had indeed “beaten” India.