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|17th November 2009, 22:08||#1|
Senior - BHPian
Tata Indica- a tribute
MORE DREAMS PER CAR
I still cannot forget how crazy I was when I saw the Tata small car at the 1998 auto expo.
I still cannot forget how crazy I was whenever I saw pre launch full page teaser ads of the car which at that time had "the external dimensions of the zen, the internal dimensions of the ambassador," and as Mr. Tata said, "the Indian public wants the economy of an affordable diesel car, to be priced at that around of that of a Maruti 800".
I still cannot forget the gorgeous aerodynamic looks, the classic 2 box silhouette designed by I.DE.A., the robust interior design, the tear drop headlamps and those gorgeous "bison" vertical taillights which gave the car its identity.
I still cannot forget all the hoopla it created when it garnered 1,15,000 bookings within one week in January 1999.
But the most important thing that I still remember its famous slogan-"MORE CAR PER CAR".
Presenting a tribute to the first fully indigenously developed and engineered passenger car, the Tata Indica.
Lets go back to the history:
The time: September 1995. Indian automobile industry was going through maturity phase and more and more car makers were entering our market as a result of de-licensing. Cars like Maruti Esteem, Daewoo Cielo, Opel Astra and Ford Escort were entering the market in this newly created "luxury segment". Packed with features like power steering, electric windows, central locking and stereos these cars gave us the level of standard features never experienced before.
But still how many of us could actually afford to buy and run these cars? It was seen more of a novelty value rather than a mass product.
We the people, majority of us could still only afford small cars or hatchbacks as now called technically. And at that time there was only one premium hatch-the maruti zen. Overpriced yet dynamically well sorted out, fun to drive and great looking, it was the default choice of enthusiasts and logical upgrade to M 800 owners.
The Fiat Uno was launched at much fanfare in fall 1995, heralding Fiat's comeback here. The crowd went ga-ga over its different looks, acres of space and comfort and a decent 1.0L 45 bhp petrol FIRE engine at an affordable price, it seemed that the zen finally had a serious competitor, one that was really bigger, better and backed the trusted "FIAT" brand, as shown by a record 2,90,000 pre sale bookings which still remains unbroken as of today.
But little did Fiat knew that disaster was waiting to happen. Labour issues led to a massive 6 month strike at PAL's kurla plant and a failed JV with peugeot (for 309 GL and GLD) meant that success would never knock uno's door. Step motherly treatment to customers in terms of poor after sales service and delay in refunding to customers who canceled bookings in huge numbers only added to the firm's woes.
In June 1997, Fiat did try to make a comeback with Uno diesel which was touted as India's first affordable new generation diesel car, was a moderate success and led to Fiat's comeback. Priced at Rs. 4 lakhs and available with power steering as an option, the spacious, comfy and practical diesel hatch was exactly the car we wanted. Robust engine and durable solid body only added to its appeal. Until then.....
Meanwhile, behind the curtain, a secret project was conceived, designed and developed by none other then Mr Ratan Tata who envisioned what er require. An affordable, modern looking, spacious, comfy, powerful and efficient diesel car at an even more affordable price with top level of standard features unheard of in small cars, that is all features of luxury sedans in a small car.
The year: 1996.
The first styling model is ready and undergoes wind tunnel tests at the company's newly created engineering and research center, Pune.
The model was shaping up to be many firsts for Tata:
Styling was never Tata's forte and this time Ratan Tata had to ensure that his car looked easily unlike anything on the road our country has ever seen, balanced, classic 2 box sleek aerodynamic profile.
And what better than outsourcing the design to the country known for its timeless and classic automobile designs-Italy.
Many design houses like Italdesign, Ghia design Turin and I.DE.A. were approached but it was only I.DE.A. which showed great interest in the product.
The briefing was simple-design a car that looks like a million bucks, yet affordable to the common man and the car wouls look good at any landscape, whether India or any other country around the world.
About 2,300 sketches were made over a period of 6 months and finally, in June 1996, the final clay mock up model was produced with Ratan Tata adding his inputs to design itself.
The car goes rigorous wind tunnel tests at I.DE.A. lab and comes out triumphs with a very low Cd which promises to be best in this class of cars.
Apart from the exterior, Tata also needed a top class avantgarde interior design which is a combination of style and utility. Knowing well how we Indians love to store small things inside our cars, the interior was designed with a large glovebox, which was lockable, a shelf under the steering wheel, huge door pockets and the dash design was itself stylish and straight forward with a huge storage space atop of it. Ergonomics was also simple and for 1998, the car easily had best in class relation of driver to all controls as a result of this design. The AC vents with a classic rectangular shape looked huge and robust at the same time, and were equipped with air volume adjustment for optimum air flow towards the huge glass house.
Our country does not have any design size limitations so Mr Tata made the car longer (3.7 m) and wider (1.625 m) than the so-called kei cars which normally were confined to narrow dimensions of 3.5 m X 1.5 m. the reason behind that=to make the car a genuine 5 seater with an airy cabin and more width and longer wheelbase meant more space.
Now came the most important part-what engine would power the car? Tata attained decemt skills to make robust reliable simple to maintain diesel mills in the sierra, estate and sumo but finding a suitable mill to power the small car, which is a different ballgame altogether. Designing an entirely new mill from scratch meant increased development costs and delayed launch timing.
So Tata's engineers came with an ingenious solution-take the sumo's 483 DL IDI (4 cylinders and 83 mm bore), downsize the bore to 75 mm and the capacity to 1.4 litres (1405cc from 1948 cc) and then plonk it into the small car. Thus, 475 DL IDI was born, it had less weight but still was heavy, but it seemed to be a perfect fit on the small car's engine bay. The day in mid 1997 when the first running prototype was ready, Ratan Tata felt truly emotional and his dream was finally taking shape. Extensive tests were being carried out at VRDE, Ahmednagar and other parts of the country for over 2-3 lakh kms, about 100 heavily camouflaged prototypes were designed for it.
Meanwhile, the engineers were determined to strike at the budget end of the petrol small car market and they were designing a petrol mill also side by side, a first for Tata. Using essentially the same diesel engine block, the engine had new camshafts, cylinder heads and fuel delivery system by a twin barrel mikuni carburetor while displacing the same 1405 cc. By sharing common components, the final cost of the product would be extremely low. More on that later.
The cars were still undergoing extensive tests and meanwhile, a slew of small car launches were planned in 1998 in our country mainly:
OOh la la..Time: December 1997, The magazine "Auto India" carries the first exclusive photos of the car n its cover titled "Telco's knockout! Tata Small car unveiled!" and when I purchased the magazine, I was going crazy. and crazy. and more crazier than ever before.
IS THIS A TATA CAR? was the question that I asked myself. And my dad said, yes son it is. That time we used to own a PAL padmini.
It was love at first sight for me. I wanted to persuade my dad that whenever this car gets launched, we will buy it, so gorgeous it looks in metal.
While the prototypes were being still tested, the curtains to the auto expo were drawing near.
The dawn of a new era in Indian automobile history. The world is waiting and watching closely. And I was waiting. And waiting. While I was at the expo, Hyundai formally launched the flashy looking red Santro and minutes later, Daewoo chairman S.G. Awasthi unveiled the tiny cute 800 cc matiz, triggering a launch of rivalry between the two Korean giants which continued till the cars were formally launched in fall 1998.
Bith the korean giants-one already established and other entering for the first time by performing a world premiere of made-for-India Santro (based on ATOS but with more sloping front and back ends), were tom-toming the media about the products' attributes, talking about competitive pricing etc for the Indian consumer and their long term commitment to the market with affordable products.....
Meanwhile, at hall 18 in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi a launch was going to be announced by the Tata group, TELCO at that time. I immediately pulled my dad's hand and persuaded him to go there, and we ran to reach by time.
Many big industrialists were present and then finally....
A big ballet dancing troupe, rising a clamshell and out comes the gleaming bluish black Tata small car dressed in heavy metal, with my eyes drooling over it and watching Mr. Murasoli Maran inaugurating the launch party, he was the first person to see the car's interior, I was mesmerised. More and more cars were being driven to the podium, one silver, one dark blue (all top-of-the-line models) and for me, it was a triumph of Indian engineering.
Ratan Tata precided over the conference and referred to the small car as "my baby". I felt emotional that time. Was just 13 years old and that day was my 13th birthday, what better gift could I asked for?
"We present the Indian public a car which we can proudly call it our own, with the external dimensions of the zen, the internal dimensions of the ambassador, because that's what the Indian car buying public needs, to have the economies of a diesel car and which can be priced about that of a Maruti 800.", quoted Mr. Tata.
The initial Euphoria is over,the car's testing continues,it gains a name-INDICA from INDIan CAr proclaiming a spirit of patriotism among Indians, and meanwhile the year passes buy,the last quarter starts the dawn of big ticket small car launches.
Hyundai is first in to the party and launches the santro in MPFI guise in 3 varients:
15,000 Santros are booked in the first 2 weeks. People cannot understand its quirky looks but its combination of tall height enabling easy entry and exit, modern electricals and superb level of standard equipment (power windows in front, central locking, coloured bumpers, rear washer/ wiper/ defogger, rear seat belts etc) make it a featured packed car in its class and its first in class MPFI petrol engine gives in fantastic performance, all endears it to average Indian families, to that extent that in one ad, a lady says-at last we have a car that is designed for easy entry and exit for women in a sari!
One month later, another big ticket launch-from rival Korean giant daewoo motor-the matiz at a glitzy 5-star hotel followed by a fashion show with autographs on the car's bonnet and the price declaration-3,55,000 to be exact takes place.
Despite the cute Italian looks, superb space inside due to its first in class monovolume design, top notch fit, finish and paint quality and an efficient 800 cc 3-pot mill producing 52 bhp, that car was a sales disaster. It was overpriced and severly underequipped, in fact first models did not have power windows!
The time comes, announcement of variants and prices:
Now that the car is launched, an important time comes-to see its reviews and auto India carries its first drive report, and quotes "much better than expected, the gorgeous looks and terrific value makes you overcome its overall shortcomings. The DLE model is a phenomenal deal, and has the potential to kill the competition, as it can chew up market share right up from the M 800 to the Cielo."
Then I saw its first TV commercial, with a man on a lookout for a bride and the song played "baby, I love you you want me", his father chasing him with a gun and day dreaming life after marriage when suddenly he realizes that it was just a dream, life is different and that lady was just asking for a lift as her car broke down etc...
I never went in any showroom since I was studying in class 8 in Somerville Noida, sec 22 and daily my school bus crossed the Tata showroom-sterling motors and every single day passed I used to see the car in the flesh on display at the showroom from my bus's window.
Bookings opened and in a week, spirit of patriotism alike, more than 1,15,000 bookings are recorded. This was the sole topic of discussions in my class-Indica, Indica and more of Indica.
Last edited by sidindica : 17th November 2009 at 22:26.
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|17th November 2009, 22:24||#2|
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If my memory goes right, I remember that Mr. Ratan Tata in an interview had said that he wanted to make a small car that looked good in black and my God. At that time when I saw the first Indica in black, it was just prrrrfect.
Kudos to TATA. IMHO, it's still one of only small cars that looks good in black.
|17th November 2009, 22:48||#4|
Join Date: Dec 2008
Thanked: 14 Times
I still remember arguing with my friends in school(I was 16 then)that Santro is only cute but Indica looks better.One of my friend's father had multiple bookings and sold the bookings for a premium.
|17th November 2009, 22:58||#5|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: Gurgaon/New Delhi
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fantastic, pretty nostalgic for me as well. Bought my first car as Indica. Don't know how many people told me not to buy this car, but it was love, and love is blind.
The day I brought it home, I could not sleep whole night, watched movie whole night and and peeped through the window after every hour till 3:00AM.
Trust me that car made heads turned. mine was first in whole block, and almost everybody was confused/excited/amused/surprised. A total mix of feelings.
Then next day, at Karkardooma court crossing, Delhi, A guy from esteem behind me stepped out of his car, walked upto me, and asked about the car, he really liked the car. I was swelled with joy
Oh man I still miss it,
In two year, the same block had more than 10 Indicas, and all of them coming to me for suggestions
|17th November 2009, 23:00||#6|
Senior - BHPian
As the year passed by, IIRC, the car was launched in 8 colours-blood red, mint white, sky blue, botanical green, pearl silver, tropicana green, cezari red and alpine blue, some different colours were for different varients.
Then in March after giving my 8th final exam, I saw the first car in the flesh in front of my school passing by in alpine dark blue colour, it was the DLX model and what a sex on wheels it was! Then I saw a silver one in my locality, another DLX, aah, even sexier. Then I began spotting many Indicas on the roads from my school bus window and the more cars I saw it, the more proud I was feeling of tata, the company which put India on world map as that time it was just the 5th country on earth which can conceive, design and engineer cars on its own without outside help.
But little did I knew that fate had something else for Mr. Ratan Tata.
About 38,000 Indicas with the classic smiling grills were sold during the first full year but little did I knew the gruesome truth behind that smile.
Alarming number of product complaints like:
While these complaints were there, majority of Indian public were absolutely in love with the car's merits-
I recall a comment written on auto India's what car problems where a lady, who owns an Indica, lambasts the car saying its noisy, poorly finished, problematic etc and then on next issue, 2 people, die hard Indica fans counter attacking it with its merits like saying, "So what its noisy, I call it communicative but despite all its drawbacks, don't you vouch for the low running costs that it gives you in return and the amount of huge space and comfort it gives you at an affordable price?"
Meanwhile, BS motoring carries out a special on the car, where 5 owners are emotionally attached to their Indicas and talk about all the aforementioned merits.
Meanwhile the petrol Indica is a sales disaster as despite the rock bottom price, poor mileage and refinement and just the NON AC model availability have kept it out of radar of potential owners. While rivals are making money be selling petrol cars, Tata is making money by selling diesel car for the price of petrol small car, unheard of in this market. But still Tata's financial statements show heavy losses due to falling Indica sales.
The year: 2000.
India adopts Euro 2 norms in all major cities and that means all cars will be sold with MPFI engines, signalling the end of the carbeautted ones.
While the Korean cars have no problem, the matiz becomes the first car to be sold followed by Santro. Maruti too upgrades its cars with 16 X 4 hypertech MPFI engines, so that they are more fun to drive and at the same time being fuel efficient and low on emissions.
Now again these cars were in the region of 52-60 bhp at the most.
The car was badged as "Indica 2000" and finally it was launched in AC LEi and fully loaded LXi models, the latter even having sporty fabric, metal finish console and coming in exclusive Indiana red and Mica black colours, which looked fabulous.
Tata also carried improvements to the build quality and suspension design to make the car more refined and driveable.
But still the car that had the ability to crack 0-100 in 13.5 seconds (fastest in its class) did not suceed as people had only seen Tata as a diesel car manufacturer rather than one with a petrol power. Dismal mileage again only raised concerns.
Still, at the background something was cooking within Tata Motors to get the Indica back on track and give the car its first major upgrade based on the customer feedback.
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|17th November 2009, 23:01||#7|
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I still cant forget the HUGE Ga-Ga outside the then 'NEW' Concorde in Bangy... I was ~18 then, Dad wouldnt take me inside the car showroom!
But - IndiCa spelt 1 word - PATRIOTISM
If not the showroom, the car created something in me - I became a Automobile Freak! I bought my 1st Auto Mag - Auto India in Jan1998. I have continued to buy mags since then and learnt all I can about cars and bikes and Indian Auto Scene.
Kudos to TATA and IndiCa and now the NANO!! Many more bhpians will write their feelings 10years from now - about their euphoria when their eyes caught the Nano on TV for the 1st time...
|17th November 2009, 23:04||#8|
Join Date: Aug 2009
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Awesome article Sid. You have a terrific memory.
I remember the time India was launched and the hype around it. One fine day when someone drove in one in my college there were lots of people around it inspecting the car's exterior and interior. Though the initial ones did make a lot of sound and were not as silent and refined as Santro (never had a chance to be inside a matiz till date).
Never drove an Indica but the build quality was something which everyone swears by. The name was something which pleased everyone. The INDIan CA had arrived.
|17th November 2009, 23:23||#9|
Senior - BHPian
Part 3: The Indica V2. The next stage in car evolution
Based on customer feedback, the Indica got its first major upgrade. While petrol powered competition was running ads featuring new luxury-power steering in lower end varients like Santro Zip drive, Wagon R Zap Drive MAV, Matiz SPICE etc, Tata also jumped onto the band wagon and launched a mid level varient-The DLS with power steering and body coloured bumpers as standard features between the entry level DLE and the loaded DLX.
The Indica V2 featured the following improvements:
Also in September 2001, the petrol "Indica 2000" was phased out and similar upgrades were given to the Indica petrol and the car now was just badged "Indica V2 petrol". The best in diesel now gives you the best in petrol. Retuned ECUs improve the car's mileage but still, the sales of the petrol are still not upto the expectations.
But in JD power survey, the quality score dramatically improves with considerable less number of problems per 100 vehicles reported. The Indica V2 gets the inaugural "most improved car of the year" award in 2002 Autocar auto awards and Tata's consistent efforts to re-engineer the car pays off. Not resting on its laurals, Tatas give the indica its second engineering upgrade in 2002.
|17th November 2009, 23:27||#10|
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This is a nice tribute thread to the car that revolutionized the indian small car segment and not to forget the taxi segment also.
And as the generations passed, Indica is still THE BEST BIG SMALL CAR you can buy for the money.
More car per car.
A TRUE VFM
|17th November 2009, 23:34||#11|
Senior - BHPian
Part 4: Indica V2-even more improvements per car.
While tata was working to get the Indigo-the 3 box derivative of the Indica into the market by fall 2002, the engineering changes that Tata learnt while designing the Indigo was first applied to the indica, both V2 diesel and petrol models.
A new ad campaign-just what you would like to do with the money you saved by driving an Indica? was aired. Tata Indica. More savings per car. Saves you upto Rs. 30,000 per year was claimed.
The engineering changes that carried out were:
Earlier on the Auto Expo, Tata showcased the 3 box Tata sedan (Indigo), few people know that it also showcased a yellow coloured concept the Indica Sport with the sedan's 85 bhp petrol and full black interiors but sadly, that car never entered production.
The Indigo, a spin off from the Indica platform was launched with more powerful petrol and turbocharged diesel power trains at a killer price of about Rs. 4,19,000-5,25,000, shaking the market again in beginning of 2003.
Fiat, in 2001 made a dramatic comeback with its palio, at a shock price which took the market by storm and it took all the limelight away from santro and Indica, the 2 bestsellers. But one year later, again Fiat fizzled due to dismal mileage and poor A.S.S.
For full palio history, go here:
Meanwhile, in 2003, the first proper threat to the Indica Diesel was coming...
Last edited by sidindica : 17th November 2009 at 23:45.
|17th November 2009, 23:36||#12|
Join Date: Feb 2008
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Superb write-up, but again, its Sid so we come to expect only the best now.
Indica will go down in history as the first real Indian car, people may complain about refinement and such things, but the fact of the matter is nothing remotely close to it's price range offers the same level of:
-Ability to take abuse from our roads and traffic
-Space and confort, especially back seat
-Ruggedness from a small hatch
-Low running cost and fuel efficiency
|18th November 2009, 00:00||#13|
Senior - BHPian
Part 5: Italian threat-The Palio Diesel
Fiat desperately wanted to put the Palio back on track after all the negative image it created and the only answer was to directly try and make a dent on the Indica diesel's sales by introducing the big 1.9 diesel engine with 63 ps.
The car was launched in 3 models-EL, ELX and ELX SP in a price band of Rs. 4,19,000-Rs. 4,75,000, considerably more expensive then the Indica but packed with technology like drive by wire, electrically controlled fuel pump using an ECU, safety gadgets like ABS and airbags as options, all of which made Indica look ancient by comparision. It even attacked tata time and again on its website and dealers were all praise for palio D. Initial success followed but still the car sold about 1,500-2,000 units per month as compared to consistent 8000-odd units that the Indica was numbering, in fact IIRC it even felt shy of just 56 cars of the nation's best seller that time-The M800.
Now while the car succeeded, Fiat decided to make more money and jacked up prices by Rs. 22,000 making it even out of reach of aam aadmi.
While Fiat was constantly tom-toming about its technology, tata was targeting lower middle class long distance travelers, that is a typical average Indian car buyer.
A typical diesel car at that time buyer preferred simple easy to maintain diesel car which can even be repaired by a roadside mechanic in case of breakdown, at an affordable price with adequate power and good mileage, not technically complex engine that Fiat had.
While the Palio was zillion times better designed and engineered than the Indica, its fuel pump was prone to failures early in its life and to make matters worse, the part was not available in workshops.
So again, the Palio D was dying a slow premature death whereas the Indica was steadily chugging along and was becoming a household sight in every nook and corner of our country, especially as abused taxis in rural and semi urban areas. Increasing breakdowns were a cause of worry but be damned, people have still vouched its USP as mentioned before elsewhere on this thread.
Time for Tata to give the car its first major facelift in 6 years.
|18th November 2009, 00:28||#14|
Senior - BHPian
Part 6: The refreshingly new Indica V2-its only human to want more..
January 2004. I was sitting in a DTC bus coming from Badarpur border (from my UG college, and as soon as the bus was crossing A-one motors, mathura road, there was a minor jam and something interesting caught my eye.
A-one motors had a big stockyard and I could see a "different" looking Tata car for the first time with new chrome ringed smiling grill. I immediately got down, cut down my travel back to my home and ran towards to see what it was. I asked the guard-is this the new version of the Indica? He said " yes".
At that time it was increasingly difficult to differentiate the Indica and Indigo as even though the front end was a bit different in terms of colour schemes, a casual observer could not make out the difference between the two.
So tata decided to give the car its first cosmetic nip and tuck. Went insid ethe showroom and was shocked to see two of my old friends from him motors also present. They told a training is going on of the new Indica V2 which will be formally launched at auto expo 2004. Meanwhile I was one of the first to have a look at the new Indica and was terribly dissappointed with the facelift, especially the DLE as the faux fender covers and side skirts made it look severly undertyred. I liked the DLX though with its full body coloured housings.
The changes made were:
Another ad campaign was added later-after all its only human to want more.
The car's sales again picked up, and the car was consistent selling about 8000-9000 units per month. The Palio diesel was again costly touching the 5,50,000 mark for the ELX, Fiat introduced the new palio NV in 2004 in a desperate attempt to fight back lost sales, while Hyundai was doing well with its Santro Xing, the Zen was facelifted heavily and so was the wagon R, all selling decent numbers at that time.
2004 also marked the beginning of a new segment-the premium hatch b+ segment with the introduction of Hyundai Getz in 3 models priced between 4,50,000-5,25,000 respectively.
Meanwhile tata launched 2 varients-DLG and LGi between DLS and DLX trim levels with some features of DLX being carried over to create a cheaper varient. So the car had 4 varients each in diesel and petrol.
2005 was fast approaching and the country was ready to adopt stricter Euro 3 norms which required for drastic changes to the car's mechanicals.
Now what were those changes? Find out in the morning. Part 7 will come in a while. Till then, enjoy reading and good night!
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