A man in the southern Indian state of Kerala was arrested by police on charges that he allowed his 9-year-old son to test-drive his car, a Ferrari.
Mohammed Nisham is facing charges of endangering the life of a child and permitting a minor to drive, Inspector Biju Kumar said, according to the Associated Press. (The legal driving age in India is 18.)
Nisham has been released after paying a bail of 5,000 rupees (about $92).
The case came to the attention of authorities when Nisham’s wife filmed the 9-year-old racing around in his father’s sports car two weeks ago at his birthday party (with his 7-year-old brother in the passenger seat) and then posted the video on YouTube.
The video of the small racers went viral, racking up 1 million hits immediately and also generating outrage among the public.
Police will impound the Ferrari, an automobile that can go up to speeds of about 170 miles per hour.
However, the boys’ parents are not the least bit perturbed by their sudden notoriety, nor do they see an anything wrong with letting a child drive a powerful and very expensive sports car.
"I am proud of him. He's been driving since he was five," Amal Nisham, the boy's mother, told NDTV, an Indian television channel.
"It was his ninth birthday, and, since he was insisting for months, we allowed him to drive the Ferrari. He is a cautious and confident driver. It's not easy for a child to achieve such a feat at this young age.”
Underlying this tale of parental indulgence lies a much broader story -- the rise of an affluent class in India that is now able to purchase such symbols of Western prosperity that would have been unthinkable only two decades ago.
Local police inspector M.V. Verghese told Indian media that the father owns a lucrative real estate and tobacco business empire in the port city of Kochi and also has a fleet of 18 cars, including a Lamborghini and a Bentley, valued at $4 million. (The son has also test-driven the Lamborghini and Bentley before, according to his mother.)
While Western Europe (the traditional customer for iconic sports cars like the Ferrari) suffers from a deep and merciless economic recession, the emerging world cannot get enough of such luxuries.
Fiat, the parent company of the Ferrari, sold a record 7,318 units in 2012, a 4.5 percent jump for the prior year. Sales in its home country of Italy plunged 46 percent, but that was compensated by rising sales in China and Taiwan.
India’s nouveau riche are also a target market for European sports cars.
“The new Indian luxury consumer is pursuing a lifestyle where owning exclusive items and owning them first is a clear sign of wealth and power," Andrea Baldi, Southeast Asia and Pacific sales manager for Lamborghini, told Reuters. "India's young population is affluent and dynamic; the environment is just right."
The cost of a new Ferrari in India is about 22 million rupees (about $400,000), according to Rediff.com. That would put such luxuries far beyond the reach of the average Indian worker, whose average per capita income is only about 50,000 rupees annually, the Times of India reports.
But an increasing number of Indians are indeed able to purchase such fancy toys as a Ferrari.
"The mindset of the luxury autos customer has shifted from being a discreet buyer who wants to stay under the radar to someone who is not shy of flaunting their wealth," said Rajat Dhawan, a partner at global research firm McKinsey in India.
"This trend will further accelerate. ... It is one of the biggest things you can have to flaunt that you have arrived."
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.