This list is only a start. Request to please contribute with additional facts & figures on Indian cars & the industry! That'll make it a fun read for all
• The Tata Sumo was developed in a record 18 months! It was the best-selling utility vehicle in India for the longest time. Tata Motors' car division then was fast & aggressive.
• Daewoo - being an extremely aggressive marketer - is the only car maker in India to hold a lucky draw and give away 200 Cielos...free to use for 18 months. Talk about long test-drives! Unfortunately, the factory today is a shadow of its former self (link
). By the way, the Cielo was the first MPFi car in India.
• The Toyota Fortuner outsells all of its immediate competitors; combined, twice over
• Manufacturers buy OEM tyres for their hatchbacks at ~400 bucks each.
• National Garage - HM's premier dealer in Mumbai
- used to actively sell & promote a car called the "Concedes". It was basically a Contessa with the front & rear of a Mercedes. In the pre-internet era, you'll be amazed at how many people it fooled. I believe one legal notice from Mercedes killed the mod job.
• India has emerged as the world's 6th largest production hub for passenger cars, overtaking the likes of UK, France, Canada & Mexico.
• Further to the previous point, India is the only large vehicle producer in the world without a formal automotive recall policy!
• Blunder of blunders, Tata published its 2011 annual report with a Mahindra vehicle on EACH page - Link
• Hyundai introduced the concept of fast diesels (aka common-rails) to the masses, via its Accent CRDi, although the Mercedes E220 CDI was the first common-rail oil burner to be sold in India.
• 33% of all car sales in India are from existing owners in the process of upgrading. Another 30% come from the need for an additional car in the house. Translated, 2/3rds of all car sales are from current owners!
• Tearing your hair apart because of the EcoSport's 1 year waiting period? Sheesh. The erstwhile Premier Padmini used to have a waiting period of 10 years! If you were lucky enough to own one, you could drive it for a while, then sell it used for a higher price than what you paid at the showroom.
• What Maruti is to hatchbacks, Tata is to commercial vehicles and Mahindra is to utility vehicles. All three have absolutely dominant positions in their respective market categories.
• The Honda Accord was poised for an India entry in the 80's via Tata Motors. Permission wasn't granted by the Government though.
• The Indian F1 GP has been held thrice. In all three races, Sebastian Vettel topped the qualifying as well as race results.
• The Fiat Uno's booking record remains unbeaten. This Italian hatchback garnered a whopping 2.9 lakh bookings in the 90's. Of course, it's a different matter that, till today, there are a large number of Fiat Uno & Peugeot 309 customers who haven't got their booking deposits back.
• White, Silver & Black (in that order) are the most popular car colours today. Silver used to dominate the rankings earlier.
• Tata gets the credit for conceptualising the "sub-4 meter sedan". It's poor selling Indigo CS was the first. Since, Maruti has cashed in on it bigtime. Trivia within trivia: HM also tried its luck with the ghastly sub-4 meter Ambassador (link
. HM might've been influenced by this ad:
• It's not only hatchback customers who care about practicality, even those with a crore in their pocket do. The sales ratio of Porsche SUVs & sedans to its 2-door sports cars is 9:1 in India.
• Only because of Maruti is the 1.3L MJD the "national engine of India
". Remove Maruti's numbers and it's the Nissan-Renault 1.5L DCi motor that is the most popular. The DCi is used in more segments (including SUVs) and across a wider price band (right up to the 15+ lakh Fluence).
• The Standard 2000 was the first Indian car with power windows.
• By revenues, Tata Motors (and not Maruti
) is the biggest motor company in India. This is due to commercial vehicles (primarily) and Jaguar-Land Rover.
• VW disguised its Vento test-mules as Fords to mislead the aam junta. Shows the Chakan boys know how to have fun
• For car owners in the eighties & nineties, it was a ritual to apply anti-rust coating on the bumpers of their Padminis & Ambassadors. When the rain Gods arrived, cars on our roads magically ended up with golden bumpers.
• Tamil Nadu is the "Detroit" of India and home to the factories of Hyundai, Ford, BMW, Nissan, Renault, Ashok Leyland, Mitsubishi, Bharat Benz, Royal Enfield, TVS, Yamaha, Caterpillar etc. Gujarat wants to snatch that title from Chennai, but is a long way off. Due to poor policies & support, Maharashtra isn't perceived as being investor friendly anymore. Labour issues in Haryana have affected future investment there.
• When the 800 was launched in India, the wise guys thought it will simply disintegrate on our roads, or the potholes will swallow the li'l car up. The 'experts' said Marutis won't last in Indian driving conditions. Could they have been anymore off the mark?
• Complicated high-end European cars suffer from serious reliability issues today. Unfortunate because, at one time, German cars were known for their indestructible durability. Ah, the days of simpler mechanicals, electronics & W123s / W124s. Lexus somehow manages to get out extreme reliability from its most complex cars. Example: The LS460 which is rated as dependable as a Corolla.
• The Tata 407 was well-priced, overload-friendly, reliable, quick and had unmatched after-sales support. It singlehandedly demolished the LCV dreams of Toyota (DCM), Nissan (Allwyn), Mazda (Swaraj) and Mitsubishi (Eicher). Related Thread
• Maruti's market-share is well ahead of Hyundai. Yet, the average Hyundai dealership sells more cars. Even the average Mahindra dealer sells about as many units as that of Maruti Related Thread
• The Toyota Qualis was such a market favourite that it recorded its highest sales in the same month that its demise was announced. For the longest time, between a Qualis & Innova of similar vintage, it's the former that commanded higher resale value. I know of some Qualis owners who got fed up of people following them home with offers.
• Sales of the Mahindra Bolero only really shot through the roof after the Qualis was discontinued.
• The 1st price-cut in Maruti's history was carried out hours before the Indica's launch. That's how nervous the Indica (and the hype around it) made the folk in Delhi. On 30th December 1998, it brought the 800's price down to 1.85 lakhs and pushed Maruti to introduce a sub-3 lakh base variant of the Zen. Ratan Tata chuckled & said "We have some good news for even those who are NOT booking the Indica. We have got the prices of Maruti cars slashed for you." News link
• One of the first Skoda authorised service stations in India was little more than a shed. The Mumbai service shop didn't even have power supply, and was run on generators. Funny how 15 years on, after-sales remains the biggest challenge for Skoda.
• Sunfilm has been entirely banned in India by one sweeping judgement of the Supreme Court. A single PIL is all that was required to inconvenience lakhs of cars owners. No, you can't even have fully-transparent sunfilm in India anymore. On a lighter note, that's just too bad for college students:
• 50:50 partnerships are never a good idea; one partner should have the majority, even if it's only by a percentage. Consider the Maruti vs Suzuki public dispute of '97. Suzuki publicly called Bhaskarudu (the Government's choice of MD
) "incompetent & unfit for the job".
• How much ever the auto industry has progressed in 2014, the HM Ambassador's backseat is unmatched for comfort by nearly all of its direct competitors. As late as 2013, the ol' girl regularly outsold some of its more modern sedan competition.
• There is a Porsche showroom in South Mumbai with no cars on sale! Long drawn battle between Porsche and its earlier importer, Precision Cars. More information
. The Shreyans Group (parent company of Precision cars) has lost rights to other franchises too, including Audi, Ferrari etc. The group's MD was arrested and has several legal matters against him.
• In the nineties, for every other car on the road, you'd see 3 - 4 Maruti 800s. How things change. Today, for every 800 or Alto in urban India, you see 10 other cars.
• HM had the gall to sell the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X with a measly 6 month warranty
! Not that it's price of 60 lakhs (on-the-road) helped the car either. R-I-P.
• The first Indian car forum was on Indiacar.com, a much hyped website backed by a financially strong group. The website recently shut shop.
• Shocking but true: Toyota India sold the million-rupee 9th gen Corolla with tube-type tyres (not tubeless)!
• The Skoda Superb dominates its segment in India, as is the case in many parts of the world. The luxury car is so good that Skoda's chief got fired for selling a Passat-beater at a lower price. VW CEO Martin Winterkorn was furious when the Superb topped a comparo against the Passat. Related Link
• If you're from the hotel or tourism business earning foreign exchange, you can buy imported cars at 1/2 the price? EPCG information
• Ever seen a newly launched Tata / Mahindra / Toyota UV standing by the side of the road with its bonnet open? Odds are, nothing is wrong with the vehicle. It's merely a plant by a competitor. Used to be a rampant rogue practice till 2005. Fear of being exposed on the internet ended the practice.
• The most common & successful scam by car dealerships is to over-invoice the actual road tax. Most car owners don't even realise they've been had. Related thread
• The iconic, perennial enthusiast favourite - Octavia vRS - was the first turbo-petrol car in India. As a driver's package, there's no other car like it. Period.
• JLR contributes to over 75% of Tata Motors group profits. Buying JLR was one of the rare good decisions Tata Motors has made in the last decade.
• The Daewoo Cielo received a terrific response on its launch. However, the company couldn't get customer cars from the factory to the showroom. Rumour mills insist that a competitor blocked all transport channels for Daewoo. The company sorted the logistics out with time, but it resulted in a lot of customer negativity.
• In the last 1 year, several car makers (including VW & Toyota) decided to slow down investments & expansion plans in India. Reason = Market stagnation.
• The legendary Mercedes W124 was launched in India at the same time that its newer generation - the W210 - was unveiled internationally. Indian customers gave a thumbs down to the W124, perceiving it to be an "old model" dumped on them. Ask anyone who knows his Mercs and he'll pick a 124 over a 210, 9 times out of 10. Where the W124 was over-engineered, the W210 was developed with a 'cost-cutting' philosophy in mind.
• Sitting on the fence with regards to Airbags & ABS? This should help you make up your mind: More people die of road accidents in India than anywhere else in the world. Trust me, you can use all the safety equipment you can get on our deadly highways. Maruti used to offer ABS as a Rs. 20,000 option on the 1st-gen Swift (VXi / VDi variants). Shocking that the number of customers opting for the same were in single digits (% terms).
• In the 60s & 70s, Hindustan Motors & Premier Auto couldn't simply build how many ever cars they wanted. The Government told them how much they could produce. Even the selling price was dictated by the Government.
• India is perhaps the only market in the world where one could sell 3 generations of the same car in the same showroom (800, Alto and Zen / A-Star). At different price points, of course.
• Volvo remains the gold standard for luxury bus travel in India. After all, it was Volvo who introduced the concept of comfortable, luxury buses to India. Observe any bus stand & booking area; you'll see & hear "Volvo" everywhere. Only in India are Fake Volvos
cashing in on the craze.
• Some months, the Mitsubishi Lancer was the top selling C2 sedan in India, beating the Honda City. Further, Mitsubishi was a regular topper on the customer satisfaction charts. Trust HM to botch things up. In the time that they flogged the same Lancer, Honda launched 3 all-new City generations. HM's dealer network shrunk and quality (e.g. ugly panel gaps) dipped the minute that the Lancer was "localised". Joke doing the rounds was that we'll see a Lancer MK IV in the year 2050.
• The iconic Yamaha RD350 remains the best sounding motorcycle made in India. Listen to her sing:
• The hosting company of Fiat India's website once pulled the plug on it. Reason? Unpaid bills since a year - Link
• The gap between the 1st & 2nd Auto Expos was a massive 7 years (1986 - 1993). Lack of industry action? Now, it's held every 2 years.
• You can call the Thar a "Jeep", but Mahindra can't. Mahindra lost the rights / licence to the Jeep brand in the nineties. That's why the CJ340 (CJ = Civilian Jeep) was renamed to CL340 in 1995.
• A 3-lakh rupee Alto owner gets the kind of high quality service from Maruti that 3-crore rupee Supercar owners only dream about. Talk to any Ferrari, Lamborghini & Porsche owners and you'll hear sob stories of after-sales service (delayed delivery, compulsory options that are ridiculously priced, poorly trained technicians, long wait periods for spares etc.). Related threads 1
• The lightweight Hyundai i10 Kappa2 was actually quicker than larger engine hatchbacks, and some 10 lakh sedans too. Power to weight = 92 BHP / Ton (Maruti SX4 1.6L = 88 BHP / Ton).
• Some Indian car dealerships regularly run up losses. Their owners couldn't be any less bothered though. They view the dealership as merely a channel to convert black money into white.
• The Astra was launched with an extremely lazy 1.6L LZ2 engine. Joke of those days: The Opel's rpm needle moves as slowly as a Mahindra Armada's speedometer. The engine was also problematic and thus, eventually replaced by the 16NZR engine. The Astra (and to a lesser extent, the Corsa) damaged Opel's brand name so much that GM eventually dumped the badge altogether.
• BVR Subbu
is a marketing genius and was widely credited with Hyundai's success in India. Not seeing eye to eye with the Korean management, he eventually left, but failed to make his mark again. Related Thread
& Related Article
• Volvo has realised that its passenger cars will never see success in India. We're too brand conscious, especially when paying top rupee. Despite massive dealer discounts, their cars refuse to move. Volvo has Audi, Mercedes & BMW to fight on one (higher) side and VW / Skoda on the (cheaper) other. Volvo is neither here nor there.
• The 1st-gen Reva actually sold more units abroad than in India. Reason? The zero-emissions car received significant tax subsidies internationally, but not in India.
• The youth of today - having seen only modern cars - won't believe us if we tell them that a road-trip in the eighties entailed a full car checkup, carrying extra hose pipes, fan belts, fuses and, in some cases, a fuel-pump! Additionally, switching off the air-conditioner on ghat sections was a regular practice with 'em under-powered cars. The current crop of automobiles require little other than a full tank of fuel and tyre pressure check before a 2,000 kms road-trip.
• About 70 - 75% of cars sold in India are financed, with most car owners putting down a margin of 15-20% only. In neighbouring China, merely 10 - 15% of new cars are financed. The rest are bought with full cash payment!
• At one time, Pioneer (original & duplicate
) dominated the after-market audio market in India. Their official India launch was handled poorly though, with lackluster strategic, marketing & distribution support. Not that they cared, as Pioneer HQ simply wanted volumes, no matter whether it was from the grey market or official channels.
• ARAI certification isn't accepted globally. ARAI's comeback? Refusing to acknowledge international certification. ARAI insists on testing cars prior to their India launch, even if it has already passed the most stringent of tests worldwide (standards far higher than that of ARAI).
• The Tata Nano's breakeven point is 20,000 / month. The mini-car hasn't sold 20,000 even in the entire year! Fact is, the full range of Tata's passenger vehicles don't sell 20,000 in a month.
• Credit to BHPian Historyman
for this post: In 1892, the Maharaja of Patiala imported the 1st car to India....a French De Dion Bouton steam powered twin-cylinder Tricar. In 1893, the Olds Motor Works first export order (a 4 wheeled steam car) was dispatched by ship to India, but it didn’t arrive. The ship sank on the way here! In 1898, a car was brought into India by H Hewitt (model unknown, maybe an Oldsmobile) and by 1900, three Oldsmobile were imported into the country by Mr. Jamshedji Tata, Attorney Rustom Cama and Kavasji Wadia of Bombay Garage.
• Hyundai, Nissan & Maruti are the top vehicle exporters from India (in that order), regularly clocking in 6-digit numbers, year after year.
• In the early 2000s, Tata was going to launch a full-size RWD sedan called the Magna (pic
). The company quickly figured out that it'll be a tough sell, more so since the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Ford Mondeo & Toyota Camry were all headed here.
• It's 2014, but some VW dealers have unsold 2012-build Passats in their yards. No wonder the Passat was pulled off the market.
• As late as 2004, Mercedes used to sell a Rs. 24 lakh C-Class without a CD player, leather seats and alloy wheels. How competition changes things. Today, you get these features in cars costing 1/4 as much.
• The Premier Padmini's S1 variant had the best sounding exhaust note of any production car in the nineties. Aural treat here:
• The initial lot of the 7th-gen Accord dented Honda's reputation for reliability and left many an owner stranded on the highway. Reason? A fuel pump valve that became loose with time. It was rectified eventually.
• Tata & Mahindra engineers frequently indulge in fun exercises, coming up with superb one-offs. Think, an Indica that can do 0 - 100 in 8 seconds with a top speed of 180 kph, a Classic running a Scorpio turbo-diesel & more.
• One authorised dealer got into a dispute with Audi. His comeback? Illegally holding onto customer cars which had come in for regular repairs - Thread Link
• Maruti's R&D became so complacent that it couldn't even design a gearbox on its own. It was literally begging for "gearbox technology" from Suzuki at the same time that the Indica & Scorpio were developed in India.
Image Credits: Various Team-BHP Threads. Thanks to BHPians for shooting & sharing!