It’s hard to imagine that it has been 70 years since we got our first taste of Independence, and sure we’ve had our share of teething problems. We’ve fought a few scattered wars with our neighbours, we’ve had civil riots, communal riots and general civil unrest. Through it all, however, we have grown. In every direction starting with a new vigour. Today we are a tour de force in every field we grace, including the automotive industry. In 6 decades, the Indian automobile industry has grown exponentially. Gone are the days where a single manufacturer monopolized the market. Present day buyers can choose from a spectacular array of world class cars. Flip back 50 odd years, one manufacturer, one car and one model, take it or leave it. Those were the choices. It seems more than appropriate to eulogize that legendary automobile that formed the cornerstones of the Industry. Legends, which have emerged from the hallowed portals of this industry, that may be immortalized in the hall of fame of Indian motoring history for all time to come.
The Hindustan Motors Ambassador
The first car to be produced in the confines of India started in life as a Morris Oxford III. When Hindustan Motors started producing the car, in 1957 they christened it the Ambassador. The Ambassador went on to sell longer than any other car in the world. Over these past years, the Ambassador has played practically every role in the book. A Taxi, a minister chariot, family conveyance, the ambassador has even seen some track and rally action. On the downside, HM’s strategy of keeping the original design may have been the cause of the downfall of the car in the private car market. The ambassador has more than earned its place in the most hallowed position of our motoring history. , Despite its archaic styling, squinty looking headlamps and crooked gear handle. All because it will always have a special place in every Indian’s Heart.
The Premier Padmini
The Ambassador had practically monopolized the Indian market when the smaller, peppier and smoother handling Italian entered the scene. It marked the beginning of a spectacular dogfight, for sales, between the two veterans that lasted almost two decades. The Fiat flourished in the younger market, it's modern styling in comparison to the old-fashioned Ambassador. PAL even brought in an air-conditioned version which was unique to the Indian market at the time. In its fight against its closest competitor, the fiat to has found itself playing many diverse roles. The Padmini had become the symbol of change, of bigger, better things to come. However, as fate would have it; the symbol that it stood for would soon become the reason for its passing, in the fight against the inevitable change. This struggle for survival between the two oldest ‘Hall of Famers’ continued for almost half a century until PAL pulled the Padmini from the Indian market in 2000. It passed on as a legend, etched into the pages of Indian automobile history for generations to come.
The frugal Maruti seemed to be the order of the day when it first hit showrooms in 1974. It was smaller, quicker, not to mention much more efficient and easy to drive. The Japanese way of efficient living, imbibed in an automobile met the requirements of the changing Indian market to the tee. It brought about an upheaval in the market selling more than its competitors year after year, for almost three decades. The Maruti stood for good old Indian values; it was efficient, effective and good value for money. It is undoubtedly the most Iconic Indian Car. For being synonymous with the Indian way of life, the Maruti 800 is one of the most pragmatic milestones in Indian motoring history. And it will always be remembered as the car that drove India into the 21st century.
One might argue that the Indica has been of very little consequence to the Indian market, and doesn’t have a place amongst the Icons listed above. The truth is, you may be right. The reason, the Tata Indica has earned its place amongst the Hall of Famers is the little-known fact that the Indica is the first entirely indigenous automobile ever to be produced in India When it first hit showrooms, it was a little rough around the edges but over time, it has matured to into a world-class hatchback. Even hitting showrooms in the UK rebadged as an MG Rover Cityrover. Subsequently, the baby Tata earned its place in our 70 years of motoring heritage for being one of the first “Indian by birth” in the world.
Ratan Tata once said that he could build a car in India and sell it for a lakh and still make a profit. The world laughed in unison. Ratan Tata replied with the Nano, the One lakh car that set the world on fire for being the cheapest production car on the planet, was a turning point for India on more than one way. Not only was the Nano a big hit in the sub-continent, but the idea of the world’s cheapest car was something that brought Tata motors front and centre in the world’s eye. The Tata Nano has itself evolved since into a more sustainable small car, with actual creature comforts like power-windows, air conditioning and a factory fitted entertainment system.
The first Indian sport-car, Designer Dilip Chhabria's dream manifest in metal, the Avanti that launched in 2015 is a testament to how far we have come automotive. It may not be a Porsche or a Ferrari, but it’s the first two-door sports car to be made in house. It makes 248 horsepower from its 2.0 litre Renault powertrain. It’s a humble beginning, but it's a start. And that should be more than enough reason for it to be one important landmark in our history.
Made in India Jeep Compass
Fiat Chrysler is betting big with its Jeep Compass SUV in India and has invested about $80 million in developing and manufacturing this SUV here from its Ranjangaon plant near Pune with a localisation of up to 65%. India will also be a global hub as far as the exports are concerned, the company will export the Compass SUV to all Right Hand Drive (RHD) markets across the world. Such investments prove India has established itself as a major global manufacturer of automobiles at a global stage in the last seventy years.