Is Ikea really getting into the auto business?

Ikea-leko

In the same week as the launch of India's super-cheap car, the Tata Nano, aimed at putting one of the world's most populous countries behind the wheel, there are Internet mutterings about a new ecologically friendly car from none other than Ikea, purveyor of affordable design to the masses. Whether an elaborate April Fool's viral gag or a new mobility concept, the idea has captured the imagination of the Web. Ikea recently made a significant financial commitment to eco-friendly practices: Just last August, it announced the formation of Ikea GreenTech, a $67 million venture-capital fund to make investments in companies that will commercialize green technologies and products for its stores. The fact that Ikea's "Leko" vehicle teaser showed up on a French Web site also fits in with France's forward-looking ideas about urban public transport. Two years ago, outdoor advertising giant JCDecaux launched an ambitious bicycle-sharing program in Paris, which is changing the daily patterns for many of the capital's consumers: The French company estimates that after just one year, each of its 16,000 bicycles have eight to 10 users a day. As two of Detroit's leading automakers sweat the final week before a March 31 deadline for additional Washington financing, it's intriguing to think that future innovations in transportation may come from the most unlikely of places—whether from Mumbai entrepreneurs or Swedish flat-pack manufacturers.

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary