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Old 22nd January 2010, 22:57   #31
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Star wars, car wars, success and failure of love triangles, beginning of the internet age.

  • It was the peak of entertainment season.
  • The beginning of the Internet era.
  • More and More channels like Sony entertainment television and "Indian" version of star TV opened.
Bollywood churned out some of the greatest entertainers like
  • rangeela
  • bombay
  • roja
  • dil to pagal hai
  • pardes
  • many number 1 govinda/ david dhawan based movies
  • raja hindustani
  • many khiladi based akshay kumar starrers.
  • and many more.
1995 also marked the entry of the three pointed star for the very first time in India officially as Mercedes-Benz and Tata joined hands to assemble and sell and service the W124 E class cars in India.

It was the first super luxury car to be launched with much fanfare, priced on the high 20 lakh rupees, it came with 2 engine options-the E 220 and the diesel powered E 250D.

The W124 was the last of the mercs which was over engineered and boasted of that levels of quality and durability unmatched by any other ca seen till date.

But behind the curtains, the moment the W124 E class was launched in India, that very year it was replaced with the W210 E class in Europe. So, again India was treated as a dumping ground with leftover kits being shipped here for CKD assembly in Pune.

The car was a moderate success at first, but again sales dwindled as people became aware that they had to pay a high price for what is basically an out of date product. But the lucky few who got to own them vouched by the level of safety, quality, durability and the feeling of indestructibility that came with this car.

While the big star was an average success, a small star was going to be born in 1996. Its debut proves to be nothing short of an initial blockbuster.

But often when stars go overboard and become a victim of poor scripts, their movies end up as epic failures.

Bollywood churned out many love triangles, some succeeded, some failed.

But this triangle was one of the biggest ever corporate failures that the Indian automobile industry has ever experienced.

The victims: Fiat uno, PAL Peugeot 309, Premier Padmini and Premier 118NE (petrol and diesels).

Ek hi maa nein chaar bachchon ki ek saath jaan le li.

It all happened when Fiat increased its stake at Premier (PAL) and planned to launch a major offensive in the compact car segment, then ruled by the Zen.
And what better time to launch Europe's most successful car for the past 10 years, the UNO?

Launched in 1995 with much fanfare, it heraldee Fiat's comeback in India. Bigger, better and priced lower than the zen, it was launched with a 999 cc 4 pot FIRE motor with 45 bhp, in both AC and NON AC models.
The moment the bookings opened, the Indian public went crazy and ga ga over it and no less than 2,90,000 record bookings were recorded, a record that remains unbroken as of till today.

At the same time, the French connection was filmed. Peugeot, a successful French auto manufacturer, was also looking to set up shop in India and after conducting a feasibility study, launched a notchback model of its cheap and rugged 309 in India.
Premier too launched the diesel versions of its Padmini 137D and 118 NE 1.38 D respectively. These cars also were upgraded and modernized.

HM meanwhile plonked its 1800 cc Isuzu motor in the amby too.

However, this love triangular venture between PAL, Fiat and Peugeot soon began to jeopardize as IIRC, both Kurla and kalyan plants faced a major labour unrest, and conflicting issues due to intra competition, and the plants were idle for a massive 6 months as a result of strike.

This was the beginning of a disaster.

When the unrest ended, it was too late, and huge number of booking cancellations of both Uno and 309 only added more holes to the sinking ship.

Peugeot did hastily launch a diesel model of 309, with a 1.5 litre TUD5 motor to make amends but again, only a few people got hands on it. Same for the uno.

Those who did get their cars, poor customer support, non availability of spare parts and huge backlogs of refund amounts only added more nails to this venture's coffin.

A major blow came when Peugeot announced that it is packing bags and leaving this country for good, after a mere three and half years of operations as a result of this failed JV. PAL was not anyone's pal anymore and was solely blamed for this.
309 owners were left in the lurch as spares were in short supply and dealerships were either changing brands or were shutting down for good.

Uno production did eventually resume but the baggage was already stale. It did not get the success it deserved at first place.
Fiat did made amends by launching India's first affordable new generation diesel 1.7 Uno but after initial success, it slowly faded away from the radars of car buyers.

Tightening emission norms and lack of takers killed the Padmini in 2000 and the 118 NE later.
2 more cars bite the dust.

Even today, PAL has many lawsuits and pending cancellation refunds that it owes to its clients..

In the mid size segment, Ford Launched India's first DOHC motor in a semi luxury car, the escort 1.6 Zetec with 1.6 16V DOHC with 85 bhp.

Maruti also launched its Zen with a 3 speed auto tranny in 1997 at a higher price, it found very limited takers.

The late 90s promise to be the real beginning of the car wars.
  • Some superstars will be born, including one from our very own country.
  • The battle will become fierce, as companies look to rattle the empire from all 4 sides.
  • How will the empire react?
  • And who will pay the price later?
  • And how will the Indian public react to this market masala?
Find out next.....
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Old 22nd January 2010, 23:20   #32
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dude, that is an awesome work.
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Old 22nd January 2010, 23:47   #33
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Its like a movie. Sid, really why don't you start writing movie scripts? All would be blockbusters.

To describe this thread in a word. Enchanting.
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Old 22nd January 2010, 23:48   #34
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awesome writeup sid...way to go!
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Old 23rd January 2010, 00:05   #35
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Default Happy Birthday Sidindica

Originally Posted by Daewood View Post
Hey Sid, even i wanted to ask you this..
Man tell us your real age.
Guys, now you know when this model was introduced
So join me in wishing Sidindica many more happy returns of the day and lots more fun filled drives for him and interesting threads from his keyboard for all.
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Old 23rd January 2010, 01:25   #36
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Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
[center]THE MID 90S
The Indian film industry churned out hits like maine pyaar kiya, jo jeeta wohi sikander, qayamat se qayamat tak and many more.
Sorry to be nitpicking, Sid, but both Maine Pyaar (Dec 1989) and Qayamat Se... (1988) were released BEFORE the 1990s. I bought audio cassettes with the same covers you've scanned and I distinctly remember when I did.

Doesn't affect the quality of the article, though!
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Old 23rd January 2010, 01:52   #37
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Originally Posted by sidindica View Post

Maruti also launched an automatic version of 800 for a limited time IIRC.

Absolutely spot on.

My Uncle was a proud owner of one and I've been in it countless of times. Gem of a car and it never let us down. Peppy engine, relatively smooth shifts, etc.

It was a shade of beautiful brown/beige, and traveled across the country spending time in Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and even Baroda IIRC.

Unfortunately as time moved on the car was neglected and eventually was scrapped a couple of years ago.

Real pity, I really liked the car a lot.
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Old 23rd January 2010, 02:49   #38
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Awesome write-up . It's like taking a trip down the memory lane. Never knew zen was launched in 1993. Thought around 1996.
Anyone know what was the price of TATA Sierra when it was launched?
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Old 23rd January 2010, 07:12   #39
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Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
So, these games and programmes were often a timed timepass for customers waiting for their priyas or cars to arrive!
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
Kyonki Itihaas gawah hai.
Its often said that these love triangles, if poorly scripted and executed, will end up suffering the same fate as the ones in Bermuda triangle.
sidindica, hats off to the humor sense.
Mods, how about a hats off smiley, to salute sidindica?

Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
Ek hi maa nein chaar bachchon ki ek saath jaan le li.

Some minor errors below:
Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
February, 1991, a landmark month for the Indian industries, which now encourage multinationals to enter as our economy becomes a free market economy.
Dr. Manmohan Singh, the then Finance Minister, announces the policy of liberalization which formally marks the end of license raj.
Dr. Singh took over the ministry in June, 1991.

Originally Posted by sidindica View Post
June 25, 1991, an unexpected tragedy shocks the nation when Mr. Rajiv Gandhi ...
May 21, 1991.
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Old 23rd January 2010, 11:13   #40
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Before I start this part, I salute Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose on the occasion of his birth anniversary today.

The late 90s-
Diamond, H and H entries, and the beginning of the real small car wars

The late 90s saw the advent of the internet age, and computers started selling at much faster rates than expected.
The mobile revolution had just began, but the general elections in 1996 saw BJP coming out as a single largest party with Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee being chosen as the next PM. But just 13 days into his job, and he resigns, failing to secure a majority.
The new front called the united front is then invited with outside congress support and Mr. HD Deve Gowda is appointed as the PM.
But again 13 proves to be unlucky and after 13 months, he quits, succeeded by Mr. Inder Kumar Gujaral as the PM till 1998/99 IIRC.

Then again, Lok Sabha is dissolved and fresh elections take place in 1999, this time Shri Vajpayee proving to be lucky and a new front, called the NDA or the National Democratic Alliance, forms the government at the centre and completes its full 5 year term.

India conducts another successful nuclear test at Pokhran, Rajasthan in 1998 and becomes a global nuclear power, so much that US feels threatened and imposes economic sanctions in our country.

But the year 1998 also will see some real action in the automobile industry.
About a dozen nuclear missiles will be launched, starting with our very own Tata motors, which fires its first salvo with the launch of country's first contemporary SUV-the SAFARI.

Auto India carries a full test report and praises the SUV to be worthy enough to be considered as a luxury car (for Tata standards) and that time, the features to size to price ratio remains unrivaled and is often referred to as "the poor man's Pajero!"

It was powered by 90 bhp TCIC 1.9 motor and priced at north of 8 lakhs at launch.

But Bollywood also continues to churn out blockbusters like
  • Dil Se
  • Kuch Kuch hota hai
  • taal-beat of passion
  • all "pyaar" related movies like sallu bhai trying to dare to bare by proclaiming ki pyaar kiya to darna kya, Ajay Devgan and Kajol getting serious before marriage by saying ki pyaar to hona hi tha, and from somewhere, a movie called jab pyaar kisi se hota hai...
  • Govinda's number 1 based movies continued to go downhill due to overdose barring biwi number 1, which was a big hit (not starring govinda)
Its often said that 7 is a lucky number, but spare of thought for apni urmila didi, as she delivered no less than 7 mega flops in the years 1998 end-1999, namely:
  • china gate (whats in a name?)
  • kaun (really wanted to know who were you and what were you doing here?
  • jaanam samjha karo (come on, audience to pehle se samaj gayee ki jaanam bewafaa hai.)
  • mast (I think that only one star was your biggest fan in the movie, not the entie audience...)
  • dillagi ( were you confused ki kisko apna dil dena tha? chote bhai bobby ya bad bhai sunny ko?)
  • khoobsoorat (when sanjay dutt sang aye shivani tu lagti hai nani, lagta hai usne tumhari film mein insult kardi and so the audience thought, why watch this naani urmila?)
  • Hum tum pe marte hain (Govinda ke alava aur koi nahi mila tha kya maarne ke liye?)
The automobile industry sometimes does succeed in designing better scripts than our Bollywood producers and in churning out btter cars than urmila herself.
Shah Rukh Khan was at the peak of his success career but the best was about to come.

July 1997, as a 12 year old kid, and as a 7th grade student, I was never serious about studies.

Just had little interest in them, but one thing that I never forgot to read was an automobile magazine, and remained up to date with the latest happenings from the auto industry, even if I could not understand the A to Z of cars.

Then suddenly, while watching a programme at Discovery Channel, I came across a series of repeated TV commercials, truly in international style, showcasing quirky but decent looking coupes and sedans. It seemed that a company wanted to announce some new models or was it some brand building process or...couldn't recall.., since at that time I thought that these ads were for foreign countries only...

Then while one fine day coming back from school in mid august, turn on discovery at 3 pm, again, I see extended versions of these commercials and thats when I recall the slogan which shows a handshake and proclaims-


Meanwhile, again, Christmas time, December 1997, that same company airs a 3 minute commercial showcasing its infrastructure, factories, employees and headquarters in the same discovery channel, followed by the slogan,


Suddenly I start to get excited, and over excited little knowing that this brand will create shock waves in our market when it commercially starts operations after one year.

Little do I realize that this brand will create history by bringing in many firsts in the Indian compact car industry.

Little do I realize that their maiden product will be unlike anyhing we have ever seen or experianced before, and that it will look unlike anything before and most importantly, succeed unlike any nameplate we have seen before in our market.

December 1997, Auto India magazine carries an exclusive auto expo preview and features a red coloured unusual looking hatchback on the bottom right of its cover, just below the Tata small car and labels it as a "show star"........

While the auto expo begins in January, the real car wars are just about to begin. Cars that you will see in all shapes and sizes.

The second nuclear missile is again fired by Tata Motors, this time with another blockbuster in the form of the Tata small car, the INDICA.

The third nuclear missile marks the world debut of Hyundai, the brand that I was referring to 2 paras above. It unveils the made-for-India compact car, the SANTRO.

The 4th missile is fired right on Hyundai by its cross town rival, the Daewoo with announcement of its version of compact MATIZ.

So, not 1, not 2, but 3 attacks on the same day from all corners pointed at the empire, Maruti Suzuki, which controls moe than 80 percent o the Indian car market.

Missile number 5 is fired by Ford at the midsize segment, with the commercial launch of its ESCORT 1.6 16V ZETEC.

Missile number 6 marks the entry of another much loved Japanese brand, Honda with the commercial launch of its cvic based made for Asia Sedan, the CITY in 1.3 nd 1.5 models, in 5 varients.

Missile number 7 is fired by cross town rival Mitsubishi, with the unveiling of its city rival, the 1.5 powered LANCER.

Missile number 8 was a controversial re-launch of cut price Cielo, facing dropping sales and had a massive price cut.

Hyundai's entry
and the beginning of the Korean war

While delicensing marked the entry of many overseas auto manufacturers, most of them were into joint ventures with Indian companies and that too in 3-box luxury segment not looking for volumes because an average Indian customer did not have enough purchasing power parity to buy one. Maruti's 800 and zen were plain common sights and were the cars that the public actually bought, thanks to their affordable prices and decent performance, and mileage. But these cars were compromised from our perspective, with respect to interior space, comfort and body durability, each made of tissue thin sheet metal.

The other car, the solidly built uno, fizzled after all that initial hoopla due to PAL's disastrous management and the upcoming Indica was still under development. But somewhere in south Korea, management from Hyundai motor company were celebrating their 30th anniversary (just assuming) of foundation and Mr. Kim decided to take an opportunity in the Indian market, harness its potential growth prospects and then they drafted a business plan.

But to succeed n what is to potentially become one of the most competitive markets in Asia, they needed a product, and a mass one at that. That time was about August 1996. And Hyundai did not have even a single model at its portfolio. Its first kei-car, the tall quirky looking Atoz, was planned for a fall 1996 launch at its home turf, and Daewoo, its arch rival, was selling a car based on Suzuki alto called the TICO. Simultaneously, it was also working on the successor to the tico to rival the atoz. More about that later...

A survey was conducted in India as in what do we expect from our next small car, and if this/ that features were provided will it provide a fresher and better alternative to the then best seller, the zen?

Indians showed a preference to extra space, comfort, features, modern technology, but loved one thing-curvy design and not boxy (which was another reason for uno's failure), especially after getting used to the curvy "jelly-bean" design of the old zen.

Meanwhile the discussions were heating up within Hyundai's top brass and when the Atos was launched, it was immediately ruled out for our country as it was perceived too boxy and flat at the rear, something we Indians hated.

So, designers went back to the drawing board and created the car that is unique to our country, with completely new front and rear ends and improved interiors, a design that resembled a modern hatchback at that time. Also, the domestic market car was powered by a newly developed 796 cc 3 cylinder epsilon engine with 48 ps, but for India, and especially to counter the zen from all angles, the power-train's bore and displacement was increased from 796 cc to 999 cc, and another cylinder was bolted on to make it a 4 cylinder power plant.

It was also equipped with 2 intake and 1 exhaust valve, making it a multi valve design, aimed to improve breathing and judging our poor quality fuel, compression ratio as optimized.

In about 1,00,000 kms of testing about 30 odd prototypes under real Indian driving conditions, the engine was caliberated with MPFI and power was optimised at 55 bhp, 5 bhp more than zen's 993 cc carb engine's 50 bhp.

The car also had to sport a unique-for-India name, and thus, the Hyundai Santro was born.

As the testing continued, the company marked an ambitious project of building massive plant with an initial capacity of 2,50,000 cars per annum, expandable to 3,00,000 based upon demand. Tamil Nadu's Sriperambedur was chosen as prime location due to favorable location, government incentives and tax savings promised by TN government. A huge greenfield site was also built and construction of Hyundai's biggest plant outside Ulsan, South Korea (which is currently world's largest integrated automobile manufacturing facility as of today), started with a ground breaking ceremony at September 1996 and was completed in a record 16 months time, in about February 1998, with pilot production planned for June and commercial launch planned for October in that year.

Meanwhile, timing for auto expo 1998 was close and Hyundai was preparing 3 show cars to be showcased at the expo, a red, another blue and a leaf green model. All 3 were loaded to the gills including roof rails, chrome grill, waistline and bumper mouldings and made them to look as flashy as possible, all traits of Korean designs of that time. The red car was meanwhile photographed in a studio and published at auto India's December 1998 issue along with the Indica, also scheduled to make debut at the same expo.

Meanwhile, coming back to Hyundai's hometown rival Daewoo, the TICO's successor was nothing but the matiz, a completely new design from grounds up, which in turn was actually based on a rejected Fiat design sketch that was done by Guigiaro (ital design) for one of its small cars way back in 1995. While Fiat hated it, Daewoo liked it and finalised it for its lineup, though the TICO's M-TEC engine was heavily reworked with new cylinder block, heads and MPFI technology to power the Matiz (conceptually previewed by D'ARTS earlier).

It was planned to be showcased at the auto expo as well and carried a 3 cylinder, 6 valve 796 cc MPFI powertrain with 52 bhp and 730 Nm torque. Contrary to Hyundai's policy of different powertrains for domestic and export markets, the matiz was retained with just one powertrain option for all global markets, including in India.

While the matiz launches in April 1998 in Korea to rival the atoz, it was the auto expo which was to begin what is actually termed as "Korean rivalry" in the months to come while the respective products hit the Indian launch timings....

to be continued...
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Last edited by sidindica : 23rd January 2010 at 11:22.
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Old 23rd January 2010, 11:50   #41
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The late 90s
Year of ups and downs, creation if ikonic and accentuated blockbusters and the advent of media wars

The mid to late 90s saw some of the biggest sporting extravaganzas like:
  • The Atlanta Olympics, 1996 in which Leander Paes won a bronze medal for us,
  • The FIFA football world cup, France, 1998 won by France upsetting Brazil in one of the world's biggest defeats to the favorites, and the rise of Zinedine Zidaine to stardom
  • The decade's last ICC world cup in England in 1999, won by Australia.
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?

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.
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.....

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Old 23rd January 2010, 11:53   #42
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India's most eagerly awaited car arrives in grand style claiming that it is the end of the small car....

December 30, 1998

With fair amounts of Santros and zens, and a few matiz roaming our country's streets, Tata announces the launch of its much awaited small car, the Indica with killer prices aimed at these 3 models.
3 diesel models and one petrol model are launched.
  • Petrol, 1405 cc, 60 bhp 4 speed carb, 10.7 kg-m torque, just 2,59,000 ex-showroom.
  • DL Diesel non AC, 1405 cc 4 speed, 53.5 bhp, 8.7 kg-m, just 2,85,000 ex-showroom.
  • DLE diesel with AC, just 2,95,000 ex-showroom.
  • DLX fully loaded with PS, power windows on ALL 4 DOORS (first in class), central locking, rear wiper/ washer/ defogger, parcel tray, clock, tachometer, 5 speed gearbox etc, 3,90,000 ex-showroom.
It is the DLE's shock price of 2,95,000 that causes a rattle in the industry.Simple put, at least on paper, there isn't any small car which gives you more metal for the money and the economy of a diesel in a way the Indica DLE promises.
  • So what if the engine produces a modest 54 bhp from a huge 1400 cc displacement?
  • So what if a car weighs 980 kg giving it an unfavorable power to weight ratio?
  • So what if the car just has a 4 speed gearbox on the base models?
All above things be damned, the Indian public finally gets the car that it needs, a car which is conceived in India by Indians rather being adopted for it.
While Hyundai celebrates its first milestone by delivering its 10,000th santro in January 1999, the amount of bookings that Indica nets in its first week simply blows the competition away, 1,15,000 and more to be precise.

Its billed as a triumph of Indian engineering and tata thanks people for having trust and faith in Indian product and its Indian parent, it ignites a sense of patriotism.
Clearly, there is no replacement for displacement and while people comment that 1400 cc is too much for such a "small car" like the Indica, at least on paper, the car seems almost perfect, well, almost.

While deliveries of the Indica begin, Maruti quietly adds central locking, front power windows, rear washer and wiper to thezen VX and keeps the price the same, while retaining the basic model, the LX priced below 3 lakhs.

Hyundai's Santro still sells strongly in the market, while the uno gets a raft of petrol engine upgrades in the form of two barrel mikuni carbs and lower priced trend variants, with features like front head rests and rear parcel tray deleted. Most importantly, the price is also dropped, to about 2,75,000 for this model. It does put up some fight but not enough to shake the competition.
Sales of the Matiz are just OK, with UP contributing to large chunk of the sales. Production of the car is stopped temporarily in February 1999, as Daewoo tries to desperately revive the sagging sales of the matiz.

The Korean cola wars continue meanwhile an Daewoo this time plays a big card on proclaiming that its car is safest in the class and prints a big picture of the bodyshell in a full page print ad and attacks the santro, zen and even the Indica for being "unsafe" and says that their cars are not tested to global standards.

Meanwhile Hyundai receives some complaints of ECU failures in some santros as water seeps into it during floods, causing breakdowns and starting problems, especially in the eastern part of the country.
To make matters worse, Daewoo takes advantage of this again highlights this in a new set of print ads saying that the car which claims to have "genius inside" is not so genius...

Little did people knew that these ads were to become what is probably one of the biggest rivalries in automotive history with cut throat competition to become even more intense and merciless in the coming months.

Meanwhile, the santro was the country's second best selling small car in that segment after the zen, and was closing on it's sales. Till then, about 20,000 and counting "ugly ducklings" were roaming our roads.
  • Daewoo, meanwhile had a surprise in store for Hyundai in march 1999.
  • And in july 1999, Maruti achieved an unexpected milestone that totally surprised Hyundai even more further.
What were these 2 surprises? and what kind of "marketing and ad wars" are in store for us?
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Old 23rd January 2010, 12:08   #43
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Sidindica, this is without a doubt one of the best threads on Team BHP. This thread is worth saving. This is a POOL of Knowlwdge. Waiting for more.
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Old 23rd January 2010, 12:11   #44
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Post Indica, price war intensifies in the redefined small car market.

The Indica's shock price tag sent shock waves in the Indian car market and judging by the huge amount of bookings announced, Tata Motors was obviously under pressure to start deliveries as soon as possible and mass producing an entirely new product line with quality control was the single biggest challenge which unfortunately Tata did not manage to accomplish.

Whatever the case may be, majority of the cars delivered with quality problems right from day one created utter customer dissatisfaction and the Indica, once hailed as the company's diamond was proving to be too rough for the customers to handle.

While the company was busy investigating and trying to make amends, something was cooking at Daewoo motors and in March 1999, it launched not one, not two but four variants of the matiz in the market, directly pitched against the santro. The price was marginally dropped and finally, a decent level of standard features was offered in each variant. Finally the small car wars has begun.

The matiz had:
  • SS (non AC), priced at 2,57,000 ex-factory UP
  • SD (AC, 2 speaker RDC player, parcel tray, mudflaps), priced 2,85,147 ex-factory UP
  • SE (current model upgraded with mud flaps and wheel covers, in addition to a 4 speaker RDC player, central locking, front power windows, moulded door trims), priced at 3,27,846 ex-factory UP
  • SP (top model with addition of power steering, high power RDC player with 4 speakers, roof rails, rear washer/ wiper/ defogger etc), priced at 3,46,300 ex-factory UP.
While the base model was targeted at M 800, the other 3 models were targeted at the santro variants respectively and suddenly, the Korean wars intensified even more. Suddenly, all the matiz's positive attributes of cute looks, mileage, chilling AC and space within compact footprint were endearing to the customers, who were willing to forgive the feeble engine's sluggish performance. Its low height meant that it was more stable on highways and its handling was touted as one of the best in segment, second only to the segment benchmark, the Zen. Suddenly, the matiz was averaging about 3,500-4,000 month, from a measely monthly average of 900-1,500 units since launch. The santro was still way ahead, averaging 5,000-7,000 units per month, while the zen was just a nose ahead.

The Indica netted about 25,000 units till august from the date of booking, IIRC.
Meanwhile, the month of july bought an unexpected star performer from the maruti's stables-the sales figures of Zen. Can you believe it, despite of stiff competition from matiz and santro, the zen sold a record breaking (for 1999) 7,907 units in july alone. August was even higher, at 7,977. September however was a turning point when the santro was almost closing in on zen by selling about 7,340 units IIRC, the zen fell to about 7,500 plus.The matiz was settling to about 4,000 units per month avg.

Buyoed by the success of the matiz, the ad-war between the Korean giants intensified and it was Hyundai first which criticised the matiz for being underpowered and touted its proven track record by airing a series of TV commercials showing happy santro families where one claims that he is getting an average of 20, the other women claims that easy entry and exit is a boom for women wearing a sari, etc.

Daewoo reverts back by claiming the car's first place in the JD power IIQS in 1999 where it was actually placed first in quality, the santro was second. Come September 1999 and it sees a new premier automobile magazine-the autocar India with its mega inaugural issue on the newsstands.
World exclusive coverage for the then comeback vehicle of ford-the ikon but most importantly, I bought the magazine (it was priced at Rs. 40) on my way to school at morning 7 AM from my local newsstand to read the mega 5 small car comparison test between zen, indica petrol, uno petrol, matiz and santro in which the santro was declared the winner based on its all round talent, gawky looks notwithstanding.
This shot up santro's sales even further as Hyundai used this tool to highlight the santro's merits.
Again, Daewoo used the Matiz's best in class in gear acceleration figures taken from that autocar issue to highlight the superiority of the 3 pot M-TEC engine and the Korean cola wars continued...

Meanwhile the "lower" midsize market, dominated by esteem, saw the arrivals of
  • Ford's comeback vehicle, the made for India Ikon, launched in 1.6 petrol and 1.8 diesel models in CLXi and ZXi trim levels
  • Hyundai's second offering, the accent in Indian market in 1.5 petrol and 1.5 TUD5 diesel models in GLE, GLS, DLS and GLX models
  • Fiat had earlier launched the 178 world car-the Siena and its wagon derivative, he weekend with engine options of 1.3, 1.6 petrol and 1.7 TD in El and ELX, ELX SP trim levels.
Both the cars (ikon and accent) eventually became success stories for their respective brands, while Siena had less than steller sales figures.

The automotive media, once dominated by Auto India, was suddenly facing competition by the launch of 3 other mags:
  • BS motoring
  • overdrive in September 1998
  • Autocar India in september 1999.
Maruti meanwhile gave major facelifts to its:
  • 800 in fall 1997
  • omni and esteem in 1998
  • gypsy upgraded to 1.3 king in 1999
  • zen with a new grill and more varients in 1999.
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Old 23rd January 2010, 12:19   #45
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The empire strikes back by launching a tall skyscraper recreational wagon to ignite the space wars.....

Christmas Day, December 25, 1999.

Finally, the empire strikes back. Feeling threatened by the numbers that the santro was doing in recent months, almost closing on the zen, it launches its first small car in 6 years.Its Japan's best selling car, the recreational wagon, simply called as the WAGON R.

While the Santro continues to be called the tall boy, the wagon R is termed as the "tall man" due to its skyscraper like proportions, especially the tall height (1660 mm) as compared to the Santro (1590 mm).
  • It is launched in 3 variants
  • LX with AC, black bumpers at about 3,50,000 ex-showroom
  • VX with power windows front, central locking, warning lights, rear wiper, coloured bumpers, split rear bucket seats, reclining rear seats (first in class), 2 speaker RDC player, warning buzzer, tachometer etc for about 4,20,000 ex-showroom
  • AX with 3 speed automatic at a very high price (cannot recall).
  • no power steering is offered initially.
Maruti makes sure that along with that, the debut for made in India F10D powertrain (based on M800's 3 cylinder F8D, but with an added cylinder bolted on) is packed with all the latest tech like MPFI, first in class 16 valve configuration and flat torque curve to minimize low rpm jerks and frequent downshift and a 3 link isolated trailing arm rear suspension to minimize the risk of roll over.
Moreover, though the interiors lack any design flair, they are indeed very practical with every nook and corner being scooped out to provide 16 storage spaces here, there and everywhere.
In fact, it is the wagon R which actually was launched in Japan in 1997 as the proper tall boy before Hyundai followed suit in Korea.

As mentioned by me on my earlier threads, the matiz, santro and the wagon R are now involved in a 3-way space wars, similar to the 3 way Cola wars in India since each car takes a different and a radical approach towards maximizing space within a small footprint, read 3.5 M length into 1.5 M width.

The main reason is that they are classified as "kei" cars where in their respective countries of origin, they are given heavy tax concessions, so manufacturers have to come up with ingenious ideas of either to place seats higher, or to increase the headroom, or to go forward with the cab forward design to maximize passenger space, while retaining the car's user friendly nature and also, the underpinnings are almost common, as seen here.
Maruti now had one car for enthusiasts (zen), whereas the wagon R was targeted at small families looking for a practical car. It was cleverly engineered, faster off the block than the santro and matiz and a close fuel efficient in comparison to the matiz due to the engine's tall gearing and flat torque curve.
Its shape was just true to its name-it was a wagon, a breed of half van and half car. Compared to the forced styling of the santro, Maruti made no apologies to make this look like a proper wagon and looked as if it was designed by a ruler, a modern version of a breadbox-on-wheels to maximise passenger space. It's boot was also the most usable and practical of the trio, in fact it had more usable boot space then the Indica!
One of its design marvels was simply its rear seats which was reclining and when front headrests removed, the front seat can be fully reclined and the car acted as a double bed! So much that it was classified as a Multi Activity Vehicle (MAV).

But did all these transform into sales? Yes and no.
Yes, for those who were loyal to maruti brand and finally looked at a proper alternative to the santro.
No, because of 3 reasons.
  • high price for the technology and maruti brand
  • cheap looking interiors in comparision to the santro
  • no power steering option
Moreover, public criticized the car's boxy shape and thought that Maruti is too desperate to make a dent in the santro's sales that it launched the product in a hurry without doing proper homework. It was also severly undertyred, and question on its highway stability, as a result of "shorter than the santro" wheelbase (2380 mm VS 2360 mm) also limited its success with sales hovering at about 1000 units per month.

So, as the year 1999 draws to a close, the nation is reeling in horror as one of the Indian Airlines plane is hijaked and we pay a heavy price as we enter a new millenium.

Similarly, like I mentioned before, in India, the cola war was between Coke, Pepsi and thumbs up and eventually, one succumbed to pressure and paid the price.

So, this space war will intensify way in the new millennium and eventually, one will pay the price after some time. Who will?

The year 2000, known as Y2K will remain true to its name, kyonki K se kisi ki Zindagi Roshan ho jayegi, and the nation gears up to a new level of K mania here, there and everywhere, but auto companies tackle to a new challenge.

All this and more, coming up next.
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