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Old 19th November 2009, 20:58   #16
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While we remember the quirky santro, let us also spare a thought for the hugely successful (in Japan) WagonR, of which the atos/santro was a direct lift off. The delay in bringing the Wagon to India was probably one of Maruti's biggest mistakes, allowing the santro to run away with the tag of 'tall boy'. It took many more years for the public to realize the value of the wagonR, only relatively recently has it started to fire up the sales charts for maruti.
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Old 19th November 2009, 23:27   #17
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Part 3:The unveiling cere-money and cross-town rivalries at auto expo 1998

While it was the Indica that hogged all the limelight at the expo, the launch cere-money of the unveiling of the 2 Korean cars also got its fair share of attention, Hyundai more so. Chairman Kim announced the world debut of made-for-India Santro, a unique and different car from atos, and it contained what we Indians wanted, a refined 4 pot motor, curvy but still quirky looks, modern engineering, technology, safety and most important, interior space. But how much? was the big question every asked from the Media to Mr. Kim.There was no answer, just a smile.

3 models were displayed, 2 mid level and a top level, with all the chrome, bells and whistles, quite "different" looking from the ordinary small cars that we were used to on or roads.

But why should Hyundai steal all the limelight? Its cross town rival, Daewoo India was not to be left behind.

Operating since 1995 from its surajpur (Gr. Noida) plant and producing the sole product- The Cielo (based on the old opel astra/ kadett, sold as the daewoo racer/ nexia, primarily in Russian/ Romanian markets), the product though ahead of its time for our country was already suffering from poor sales and reliability/ mileage issues, so Daewoo desperately wanted a mass market product to survive in the long term. But before that, the company announced a controversial move and slashed the Cielo GLE's prices to Rs. 4,90,000 from Rs. 6,20,000, the biggest decrease by an auto MNC in post independent India. this sparked a sea of controversy between rivals, Daewoo and media alike but the company officials rubbed hands quoting this as "value taken to a new level.."

Now after this announcement, the chairman S.G. Awasthi formally announced that the company will enter into this fiercely competitive small car wars started by Hyundai just about hours back.

He declared that the matiz will be on the Indian roads by mid year at the earliest and going by his prior announcement, he declared:

"We promise you that that the matiz will be extremely competitively priced, we will provide at least 3 varients, and the price will come as a surprise", tom-tomed Awasthi.

He further went on saying, "Daewoo Motors will not adapt the convectional booking strategy, rather will go for order acceptance route, while giving priority to women drivers and existing daewoo owners".

The show was over, now its time for some real stuff, that is getting these cars into the market within the promised time span of last quarter of 2009. Cross town rivals they may be, but their common thinking was to reduce Maruti's dominance from the Indian market, which at that time controlled more than 83 percent share.

  • what will happen when the cars get launched?
  • will the public accept them?
  • what about all that Indica craze?
  • will maruti fight back?
  • what type of marketing campaigns will both adopt?
  • who will suceed in the long term?
Moreover, its often said that worldwide whenever we talk about cola wars, we talk only about 2 companies-coke and pepsi.

But in India, there was a gruesome fight not between two, but three.That is Coke, Pepsi and an established brand which had one of the strongest brand image in our country-the Thumbs Up.

In India, the 2 Koreans will eventually fight out in "space wars". But a third threat is on the way after one year. Will the empire fight back? Who will win? and who will lose?

Its often said that:

The winner takes it all
the loser's standing small
besides the victory
that's a destiny.

Yes, eventually destiny will play a role with someone, and a big one at that, which even I did not expected to occur.

What is it? Find out more in Part 4, coming up tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, keep your fingers crossed. this writeup promises to get more interesting than ever before.

Last edited by sidindica : 19th November 2009 at 23:28.
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Old 20th November 2009, 03:01   #18
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This thread has bought back all the fond memories of ownership experience.

I have been owning the Sunshine Car for little more than 4 years, and the experience was wonderful.

My Santro has clocked 45000 kms and I have never faced any major issues till now. It all started in Jan 2004 when I was planning to buy a car within the budget of 4 Lakhs. Luckily by the time the New Santro Xing was existing and without any second thought went for it. It was loved by all my family members and they still continue to do so.

Thank you Sid for refreshing my memories on the Sunshine car.
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Old 20th November 2009, 10:44   #19
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Thank you sidindica- the topic evokes some nostalgia, some memories and some experiences which I love to recall as it has a happy ending.

This is something I guess that every middle class car owner in 30s today probably could relate to if he or she would have had the privilege of dreaming / buying his / her first car. I cant think of a person in my circle who would not have considered buying it in years 1998 onwards.

I had gone to a dealer for it in 2000 end to replace our ( our because it was bought by my dad) 1983, dinky M800. I had gone there with my wife who had no interest in cars. I had seen a green Santro parked in our building and I peeped into it to see the interiors and still vividly remember the details. The unique pattern on console (top) looked good. After two rounds at the showroom- we got fed up. Anxiety and eagerness to quickly get something new for the planned Goa trip and probably too little technical knowledge - (3 valve / 4 valve etc). got us bored. Salesperson's arrogance added salt to the wound as she wouldnt bother to even answer a simple query on comparisons between a Matiz or a Zen as compared to Santro. Her simple answer was "Madam, our car is best that is why it sells most". We walked out with our hurt pride.

Went in to a Daewoo showroom, had already test drove several times and loved its interiors and ac( didnt like the 3 cylinder pot for no known reason- just simple maths 4 is more than 3), booked the car- in few days- there was a news from the dealer backtracking on their commitment of discount offered on the loan and also delivery date. We requested to return our booking which they promptly did.

Went to Maruti dealer- for a M800 ( refreshed one), saw a zen, liked it- Baleno too was there at 9 lakhs. Zen felt crammed and already had one in the family but nothing better was on the mind. The salesperson while giving receipt for the zen- sheepishly popped a question - Sir, why dont you look at a new car- Wagon R- best in class AC etc.- 16 Valve MPFI- blah blah. Good discount- 17k . You just confirm - we will give it to you. What more I needed. Confirmed the booking, signed papers, thanked him and came out. 3rd day evening, went to pick it up and went to Goa.

"Kahani abhi baaki hai dost" ( mods please, excuse the language).Fast forward to 2007 end.
I had bought an Accent CRDi in 2004 then exchanegd it for a Verna VGT in 2007 from the same dealer who had turned us away but thats a different story. I was looking for an automatic car- and had very limited options and cheapest option was Santro. Called them up and prompt came reply - sorry sir, its discontinued.

Must be a hard luck - Santro was so elusive.

8th March 2008- Women's Day- Hyundai announced special scheme for women customers. I shot an email narrating my story for a Santro and that I wanted an AT Santro for my wife. By end of the day - I got a reply- please, contact your nearest dealer- the car would be available. I forwarded it to my contact in the dealership and within two days it was through.

Last year Holi - I picked it up with AT- white- looks beautiful named "Cinderella" - done about 13K so far- and doing good. Another thing to mention and we wonder- we got two visits from the dealer's workshop at our home to explain us about the car, its features, the pooja ceremony at the time of delivery was grand, then got phone calls from Hyundai, get regular service reminders- and little surprised ( pleasantly) - we never felt treated so nicely by the dealer even when we went to buy an Accent nor for the Verna. Perhaps this is what makes makes Santro so special.

Whenever we go out in it - leaving bigger and may be better ones behind - I never forget to say " Santro chalane wale - always Khush, always khush"

All is end that ends well- we have no grudges with the Hyundai dealer for their initial arrogance or indifference shown to us. Car is good but the buying experience can make it better and customer how big or small, likes some attention, some information, better treatment and above all a fair deal.
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Old 20th November 2009, 11:04   #20
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I must say sid - excellent writeup !! Really, i didn't know so many minor history details of santro. waiting for next parts
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Old 20th November 2009, 11:34   #21
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The santro was a our first 'new age' family car (after the 118NE and the M800). It served us for 5 years, without any fuss. Never asked for any repair!
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Old 20th November 2009, 12:00   #22
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Excellent article Sid.
I rememeber the exact words of the Matiz review in Auto India used by the Author. Author says - I am driving in Delhi and a school boy says to his friend "Dekh Raju, Nayi Maruti". Then the Auto India author goes on to explain the 3 cylinder motor and its history and closeness to 800CC motor of suzuki. I think the article ended with the author saying best buy in the segment or something. Also I remeber the Ad in Auto India saying
" Matiz is the only car to have passed the ELK test at 56 KMPH".I was studing Automobile engineering than and was a regular reader of Auto India.

Last edited by MCR : 20th November 2009 at 12:01.
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Old 20th November 2009, 12:14   #23
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Part 4: Car wars translate into star wars kyonki ek ke dil se doosre ko kuch kuch hota hai.

While the timing was drawing near for the 2 Korean cars to be launched, auto India carried out its first drive report on the matiz in its july 1998 issue and praised the car for fresh cheeky styling, spacious interiors, especially acres of legroom for a car measuring just 3.5 m, agile handling, top class AC and strong network of 110 daewoo dealers ensuring top class service.

But it criticized the engine for just being a 800 cc 3 cylinder motor that sounded rough and could not match the company's horsepower claims (52 bhp@6000 rpm) and just gave the first verdict that only if the price is correct (read cheaper than the zen and santro, more closer to M800, look for 2,75,000-3,00,000) will the car succeed. Otherwise, its work is cut out..

Hyundai, on the other hand, started its build building process in an enormous scale by hiring non other than the reigning superstar of bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan, riding high on sucess of his 2 films-Dil Se and kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
Of course, the company paid huge sums of money to him for that kyonki agar money hai, to honey hai.

The first commercial was aired in mid august in which Kim tries to convince Shahrukh to advertise for the company's maiden offering-the Santro while he is in a middle of a movie shoot...

Undeterred by it, Kim now goes for a bigger scale promotion showing all of Hyundai's international cars and its employees to SRK somewhere in a gathering, in a huge magnitude. SRK then starts to think seriously and agrees to do it, yelling-"keys, Mr. Kim"...

Time comes for a pre launch media test drive at OOTY and on Hyundai's test track at sriperembadur, where a spanking new plant is up and running, doing pilot productions. The media praises the car for its tall design enabling easy entry and exit, flexible 4 cylinder motor that responds instantly to the throttle, good performance at high altitude and above all, the equipment thats on offer, and a promise of top class servic and competitive pricing.

Round 1 of the small car wars (Santro VS Zen VS Uno) is awarded to the santro.

Daewoo, meanwhile, delays the matiz launch for the second time, first from August to September, and now to beginning of November. Obviously, the company wants to see how the santro is priced before making any moves.

With enough ads aired, and some people still not knowing how to pronounce "Hyundai", Hyundai's initial network of 60 dealers are up and running and gearing up for its maiden assault in the Indian market-the Santro (pronounced s-aaaa-n-t-rrr-oo).

Some time around mid october, the company announces its Indian entry formally and launches the Santro with SRK at its helm as its brand ambassador.
  • three models are launched
  • santro base, with AC and black bumpers, priced at 2,99,000 ex-showroom
  • santro DX 1, added with front power windows, central locking, high quality fabric upholstery an fabric inserts on door trims, body colored bumpers, rear wiper/washer/defogger, front fog lamps, waistline moulding and full wheel covers, priced at 3,49,000
  • santro DX 2, added with power steering and first in class rear seat belts, priced at 3,69,000
  • 6 colours are offered-blood red, campus blue, bambi beige, leaf green, noble white an neutral silver.
The production car has some changes from the show car like deletion of roof rails and all chrome bits and pieces and the grill is modified from a friendly one to a more rodent like toothy one, enough to make everyone scared....

Meanwhile while bookings open to the santro, Maruti also announces a stripped down varient of the Zen-the LX with just AC and black bumpers priced below 3 lakhs (of course with the old carb engine), while the up level model-the VX adds a stereo and body coloured bumpers and a left side OSRVM.

Daewoo, on the other hand, commits a blunder while launching the matiz-if you recall, at the auto expo, chairman Awasthi promised "competitive pricing of the car" and giving 3 varients but delivers neither.
  • The car is only launched in one varient-the SE targeting the DX1 varient of he Santro.
  • Its priced at 3,55,000 ex showroom and is offered in 5 colours-mineral red, light blue, casablanca white, excel grey and golden yellow.
  • Initial cars do not even have front power windows, but are offered after a month's time. No wheel caps or fog lamps or rear wipe/wash/defogger are offered.
  • No booking route, but an order acceptance route is accepted with preference given to lady drivers and existing daewoo owners
Cars launched, now its up to buying public to decide that which one is a better product. What will be the initial reaction? and who will win round one?
Find out next, coming up in part 5.
Attached Thumbnails
A tribute to the Sunshine Car - The Hyundai Santro-daewoo_matiz_front_20080320.jpg  

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Last edited by Eddy : 20th November 2009 at 12:21. Reason: Deleted the previous post as requested.
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Old 20th November 2009, 13:00   #24
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I hate this car, but what to say its selling in India like hot cakes even today!!

NB: I learned my initial driving lessons in Santro so even if I hate it's special :-)))
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Old 20th November 2009, 13:46   #25
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waiting for 5th part. upload asap

i am in awe by your writing, and your tribute to two fantastic hatchback of our times - the santro and the indica.

keep it up bud
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Old 20th November 2009, 15:25   #26
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Part 5: Initial customer response and debates over styling......

Fall 1998.

These 2 cars are design extremes, way too futuristic for our tastes, and debates start in the community as which one looks more ugly and which one looks cute.

Hyundai mentions that its santro is India's first tall boy design designed to maximize passenger space, more so in terms of headroom and interior volume, that allows you to even stretch while sitting, a rare luxury of a car this size. Its a car that stands out in a sea of old jelly bean shapes and convectional hatchbacks, claims Hyundai on its brochure, clearly targeting the zen.
The public meanwhile, so used to classic timeless lines of the jellybean zen, stare aghast when they see the santro in the flesh for the first time on Hyundai showrooms, all represented by flashy decorated corporate boards with graffiti-on-white scheme.

People call it a frog, some even call it a giant rodent with a tooth but in reality, it does look hideous, especially with that goofy eyed headlights, that toothy cheese cutter grille, and that mickey mouse eared OSRVM, followed by that gargantuan windscreen and cartoonish bonnet.

The styling clearly looks too forced and excessive, with an overdose of creases and curves, especially on the sides. The flat rear looks as if it was butchered up by an angry wrestler, but when viewed on from dead rear, it looks palatable, like a modern hatchback.

Now while the debates continue, it is just a matter of time when the Indian public realizes the thoughts behind that hideous design like:
  • The tall design enables easy entry and exit without the need to bend often, a plus point for women and oldies.
  • High seating position means a good visibility of road ahead and less feeling of vulnerability unlike a zen.
  • high rear seat which means that you sit on them rather than in them, a plus point for tall people.
  • tall height means more headroom, especially for 6 footers who no longer had to brush themselves against the ceiling.
Now even though the interior was too overdone like the exterior with a rounded clam shell designed dashboard, the controls are very easy to operate and user friendly, everything falling so easily to hand, while the interior at night resembles close to a cockpit, so radical it is.

The tall seat was often referred to as the driver's throne and the santro was the first kei-car to come with a dead pedal (the other being the large uno), making long drives less painful and more pleasurable.

Competitive pricing aside, the santro bought many firsts to the Indian small car market like:
  • first small car with an MPFI engine controlled by an 8-bit ECU
  • first small car with a multi-valve design
  • first small car with power operated windows,front fog lamps, rear defogger/wiper/washer and central locking
  • first small car with all 4 adjustable head restraints on all models, designed to maximize safety
  • first Indian mass produced car with rear seat belts offered as standard (on DX2) for added safety.
  • first petrol small car with a power steering (after the diesel uno)
Moreover, the way the doors shut with a modern thud endeared to the Indian public that this car will last long on our roads, and its body shell is reliable and durable. To show this, a new ad commercial was aired showing SRK performing all types of torture tests (and later in 2000 in the movie phir bhi dil hai hindustani), when he asked Kim,"can your car handle Indian roads?"
The car came out with flying colours in those ads.

Two weeks after the booking opened, the initial public reaction was positive and despite all the styling related debates, about 15,000 santros were booked with full booking amounts, out of those, more than half opted for the basic model.The Indian public had now acquired some knowledge about the santro's attributes and to add an icing to the cake, the engine was smooth, refined and pretty efficient. ride was decent, if bumpy at the rear and the suspension was designed to tackle the worst of the Indian roads, unlike that of the zen which simply crashed through potholes and other broke roads.

Now what about the matiz? though it looked unconventional, the ladies absolutely loved its cute cuddly looks and were waiting for the car to be out. That car was a marvel in interior packaging.
While the santro went upwards to maximise interior space, the matiz adopted a cab forward design, a first in its class for the Indian market, in which the engine and mechanicals were tucked in the extremes of the car (the tight engine packaging as a result of this) and the front windscreen and bonnet merged with each other so that the simplistic looking cockpit resembling dashboard can be put forward in an effort to scoop as much space as possible with that small footprint. Simply put, the matiz was clearly far ahead in leg space and width (more so than the santro and zen and often highlighted in its print ads), and this was a car that had it all what a family of 4 people were looking for, who were drawn away from santro's gawky appearance.

While the engine was of course unrefined and underpowered 3 cylinder MPFI, its configuration provided it with best in class mileage. But Daewoo India, so overconfident with its matiz, screwed it all up when it came to pricing and simply overpriced the car by at Rs. 3,55,000 for the sole SE model on offer, about Rs. 50-60,000 more than what was expected.

As a result, the public declared it as a dud, and initial sales were just as it-dismal. Only in UP was the car selling decently, part due to the huge difference in sales tax, where it was exempted at that time.
Otherwise, all the colonies were full of Santros and only santros, the zen still selling decently and only helped with the introduction of a cheaper LX model at a later stage.

Seeing the dismal response, Daewoo started huge print ads with various fashion models and designers showcasing on the car's strength-styling and the many awards it won over the world for its beautiful Guigiaro design.

It highlighted the concept of 5S
  • super power- highlighting the 52bp figure from just 796 cc, too good to believe
  • safety-highlighting as the only small car in India to have passed 56kmph offset frontal crash test and 70 kmph ELK moose stability test
  • space-highlighting the huge amount of legroom and shoulder room in a compact footprint as a result of its mono volume design.
  • style-Italian design by Guigiaro photographed with various models
  • savings-highlighting its best in class mileage from the puny 800 cc 3 cylinder engine and long service intervals
Still, the single-varient-only car was not selling and dealers were pressurizing Daewoo to slash its price and to introduce a no frills model with only AC and black bumpers at a cheaper price was being pressed on, especially on the north, going by the huge takers to the santro's base model.

To add to dae-woes, auto India carried out a 4000 km comparison test clearly stating the matiz is a inferior product to the santro as its engine, though efficient was too underpowered and accelerated at much less then the quoted horsepower claims, especially with the AC on.
Matters that not helped were its inflated price tag and substandard level of standard equipment.
Confused marketing policies only added to more nails the matiz's coffin.

The matiz will eventually fight back, more on that later....

Now while the Korean cola wars are reaching its peak, a series of huge full size ads start appearing on the newspapers proclaiming that its the end of year and its the end of the small car.....

What was that? and how will the car wars move from here? Find out in part 6, coming up next.
Attached Thumbnails
A tribute to the Sunshine Car - The Hyundai Santro-dsc03262.jpg  

Last edited by sidindica : 20th November 2009 at 15:42.
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Old 20th November 2009, 15:31   #27
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A point to note here is that when Santro came up with the MPFI engine, Maruti dealers were shouting hoarse that how the fuel here was not suitable, and all cars will develop engine problems sooner or later.
However they had to eat dirt when Euro 1 norms forced Maruti to launch MPFI in all its cars.

The Koreans also brought with them the "end" of black market.
Earlier to own an 800 or a zen quickly you needed to have approach or pay a premium ranging upto 25000.
With the Koreans, for the first time Maruti dealers had to give discounts. The kings throne was no longer theres, and for the first time in a decade, people had real choice when it came to hatchbacks.
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Old 20th November 2009, 15:42   #28
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my post may be OT here, but just thinking aloud -

Tribute to Indica - running to 7 pages !
Tribute to Santro - still in page 2 ?
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Old 20th November 2009, 15:45   #29
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Originally Posted by MuraliR View Post
my post may be OT here, but just thinking aloud -

Tribute to Indica - running to 7 pages !
Tribute to Santro - still in page 2 ?
Yeh to kahani ki sirf shuruvaat hai.
Aage aage dekh hota hai kya.
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Old 20th November 2009, 15:46   #30
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Our third car, the Santro Zip Plus LS. The earlier two were Maruti 800s.

I never really got around to loving it. We did a lot of long journeys in the 800 and it was always super comfortable.

The Santro just never was! I still walk out of it with a hurting butt.

The clutch is super hard and yet freakishly sensitive. It looks like a toad.

All said and done, we have had a decent experience with the car. There have been absolutely no expenditures on it apart from the regular servicing.

It is darned reliable, that I can assure. But fun to drive: not really.

I like the Zen and the Matiz much better. But if I get to go back in time, I would still buy the Santro. That is how faithful the car has been. I guess one can sometimes sacrifice a bit for the piece of mind.
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