Nowhere Fast: The Supercars of India

Despite import taxes of up to 140 percent, ultra-luxury cars are gaining popularity among India’s uberwealthy — even as they lack roads to make use of their high-performance capabilities.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the phenomenon in Kolkata:

One recent evening, about a dozen men and their machines, including a midnight-blue Aston Martin Virage, a white Ferrari 458 Spider and a Bentley Continental GT convertible, went for a spin, crisscrossing bridges over the Hooghly River.

Such excursions are hampered by not just infrastructure but traffic and obstacles, too, the country’s wannabe hot-rodders lament.

Traffic was among the first things that made an impression on me shortly after arriving in Kolkata. At no time, did I feel as if any mode of transport moved more quickly than walking at a New Yorker’s rush-hour pace, with the possible exceptions of a hand-pulled rickshaw or the Kolkata metro.

Groups of supercar enthusiasts have sprung up in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chandigarh and New Delhi, the Journal notes, a sign of India’s growing economic power. The subcontinent claims 97 billionaires, third in number behind the United States and China, even as hundreds of millions live on less than $2 a day.

India, it would seem, is full of surprises.

One luxury-car owner tells the Journal: “You can say about Kolkata, it’s a developing city, but what Britishers or the Americans think, that it’s still in that backward zone where the Britishers left it, it’s not.”

On some of Kolkata’s narrow, obstacle-filled roads, sometimes a rickshaw is faster. At top, the view of a congested city street from the back of a rickshaw. (Photos by Bruno J. Navarro)

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