As this commenter on the Mother Nature Network notes, lower-priced cars are indeed a Holy Grail for the electric car market. So at first glance, the India-made Tata might fit the bill. Unlike the company's even more economical Nano (selling for an astonishing $2,500), the Tata would actually meet U.S. safety standards.
Assuming the car actually goes into production (It is still a concept) AND gets imported to America (as opposed to starting in other nations first), the Tata has a look that might appeal to a limited set of younger, urban-oriented, first-time car buyers who want to make a pro-environment statement. But I doubt that's enough to make a big splash in the U.S. mass market for cars.
A wide range of bigger, more practical and more appealing used cars are available for less than $20,000. So for the budget-conscious, many gas-powered used cars still offer more bang for the buck. One could argue, accurately, that a new electric car will have far lower operating costs and dramatically lower maintenence costs than old gas-powered used cars. But people just don't buy cars with those factors in mind. They look at the up-front sticker price and the car's functions (minivan vs. SUV vs. sedan or truck), the sticker price and the car's look, the sticker price and the car's perceived social standing, the sticker price and the car's performance and perceived quality.
Thus the Tata faces a number of challenges in the States. The car might be seen as cute, but it won't be seen as cool -- and that matters. Tesla, for example, enjoys a cool factor that few other electric cars command. Meanwhile, any car designed to be "cheap" also will be viewed with skepticism about its quality. Likewise, any new car, from a "new" player in the market faces the skepticism that comes with not having a track record in the U.S. Even though Tata is a well-established company in India, the cold hard fact is that large percentages of potential car buyers in America have yet to be convinced that India can produce a good car.
Plus the car needs a better name. "Tata" will generate snickers for a long, long time.
A more-affordable electric car may be the key to mass sales -- but I highly doubt that the Tata will be that key. For some, this car could be a good deal. But overall, this car will be a small player appealing only to a niche audience.