Revisiting the Indian automobile Industry: Past, Present and future
The second biggest small car (hatchback) market in the world after Japan.
The amount of $$$ that global manufacturers are pumping into our market only talks about how important this market has been on earth.
While China has recently overtaken USA as the biggest car market on earth, the importance of India cannot be ignored.
Reduced parking space, huge population growth, limited energy resources and the looming CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations have left many manufacturers with their heads scratching on finding out the best compromise. Affordability is another key factor, which help in driving volumes ad the more you sell, the more you earn.
The Indian taxation policy is pretty absurd. While it does favour the small car more than your average 3 box, there are restrictions with respect to engine capacity and small size to save on excise.
As a result, many manufacturers have come up with "India Centric" designs.
More on that later.
India as a market is one of the most difficult to crack on earth, a market where mileage and deals rules the roost over others like technical and other parameters while choosing the car. Ask Maruti, and see the result, earning record sales and profits month after month.
But while the Indian auto industry does have its fair share of studs and duds, and still dos have loopholes, it is in fact one of the fastest growing markets on earth, one that is volume driven, especially with those 5 door cars which either look cutie patooties, or like rolli poolis, or like tall, dark and handsome, or either claim to be masculine or feminine, or else.....they are different, yet same mostly under the skin.
While I do not believe in tom toming, I do believe in celebrating my 25 years of existence with going back to history and penning down something that I have always wanted to do so.
Circa December 14, 1983.
A history is created when at Gurgaon, Haryana, the first Suzuki SS80 rolls out of the assembly line and Mr. Harpal Singh, becomes the proud owner of what will become a revolution in the small car industry.
Mera Sapna. Meri Maruti.
That car learnt India to drive.
That car was unlike anything India had ever experianced before.
That car bought many firsts to the Indian automobile industry.
Overhead Camshaft motor.
AC. Stereo. Seatbelts.
Fuel efficiency. User friendly nature. Synchromesh gearbox.
This car was Sanjay Gandhi's dream project, named after his one time girlfriend, Maruti.
Realising the great Indian dream. A car that put the nation on 4 wheels en-masse.
For the first time ever, women took to driving.
Its fun to drive nature and compact size meant easy going, care free nature for people of all shapes and sizes.
In an era of heavy, big morris oxfords and Fiat 1100s (desi bhasha mein Ambassador aur Premier Padmini), this car was a very refreshing change from the typical stereotypes that our forefathers had become accustomed to.
Critics had written off this delicate piece of Jap patootie. They questioned its durability and its light tinny build was claimed to be written off prematurely even before depreciation started.
But this PHAT chick car proved them all wrong.
People loaded it to the gills, ripped it, abused it, and even put it to all sorts of tests, and boy did the little 800 proved them wrong.
Want proof ? Ask Mr. Harpal Singh himself, 26 years and counting of trouble free experience.
because good things come in small packages, a statement which stands small yet tall today even after 26 years and 1 month later.
This car not only changed India, but it put India on the world map.
And it changed the way that business was conducted. And it went on to conclude the era of a raj.
Kaunsa raj? Find out next...
:)Asiad 1982, Colour TV, end of license raj, India shining.:)
Zara Itihas ki taraf thoda gaur karte hain.
1982 was an very important year for our country. After 1951, the Asian games were hosted by New Delhi again, and this time, truly, it was India shining.
Doordarshan was shining, for the first time, people can watch Asian games live on DD at the comfort of their homes, shaky antennas notwithstanding, and in proper real life colour broadcast was the toast of the season.
Wednesday evening at 8:30, pyaar ka uphaar Chitrahaar virtually left all Indian streets empty, so did the Hindi Feature Film at 9:30, also to some extent, Krishi Darshan.
These programmes were beginning of a revolution of a new India. IIRC, there was a time when the supply demand for cars and scooters was government determined and to set up factories, many formalities and licenses were required. This government controlled supply demand ratio had created long wait periods stretching months and even years, be it for meri priya, or my girlfriend padmini, or my papa's ambassador (Bajaj priya, Fiat padmini and HM ambassador respectively).
So, these games and programmes were often a timed timepass for customers waiting for their priyas or cars to arrive!
While Maruti was established in February 1981 as a government entity under the company's act, 1956, it was scouting for a partner to mass manufacture affordable, small and fuel efficient cars to provide the Indian public with never before seen levels of style, safety, comfort, mileage, economy and reliability at an affordable price.
Many companies, including Toyota, Nissan, Ranault, Volkswagen were considered but it was not until Suzuki, then a relatively small player in the global market, itself show great interest and commitment to the Indian market, by Osamu Suzuki himself, that it was finalized as the preferred partner at the last minute.
While construction of a spanking new 75,000 unit capacity per annum in gurgaon was on, Lord knew that India created history in 1983.
What was it? Find out next.
Sid, BEAUTIFUL thread. I would love to read more about the cars that MADE India's name in the world automobile industry.
You never sleep, Sid. Keep going.
Can imagine students copy pasting this thread to projects.
Amazing stuff sidindica. Keep it flowing..! And happy birthday..(have been reading your Punto story)
My parents were the first to buy the refreshed 800 in '87 in our district and we were living in a hill station near coimbatore. Every body told us we were crazy and that the car would be a waste on the hills, etc, etc. The car expectedly proved every one wrong and in sometime, everybody was driving an 800 out there..!
Nice stuff. Is the title slightly misleading? First I thought it is about the current competition among Indian hatchbacks.
Sanjay Gandhi named it after his one time GF, this was absolutely new info for me. Guess he was married then but first love :thumbs up. BTW amazing writeup!!
1983: Creating History
(excerpts from wikipedia)
The 1983 World Cup was full of dramatic cricket right from the start.
Teams like India and Zimbabwe who were not playing well at those times scored upset victories over the West Indies and Australia respectively. England, Pakistan, India and tournament favourites West Indies qualified for the semifinals.
June 25, 1983
The prudential world cup, final, between India and West Indies
India: 183 (54.4 overs)
West indies: 140 (52 overs)
Stadium: Lords, London
Umpires: Harold Dickie Bird and B J Meyer (England)
Man of the match: Mohinder Amarnath (India)
The matches consisted of 60 overs per team and were played in traditional white clothing and with red balls. They were all played during the day.
In the final, India lost the toss and were asked to bat first against a West Indies team that arguably boasted the world's best bowling attack.
Only Mohinder Amarnath (26 from 80 balls) and Kris Srikkanth (38 from 57 balls) put up any significant resistance as Roberts, Marshall, Joel Garner and Michael Hodling ripped through the Indian batsmen, ably supported by Gomes. Surprising resistance by the tail allowed India to compile 183 (all out, 54.4 overs).
Only three sixes were hit in the Indian innings, one from Srikkanth, one from Sandeep Patil (27 from 29 balls), and one from Madan Lal (17 from 27 balls).
However, the Indian bowling exploited the weather and pitch conditions perfectly to bowl out the best batting lineup of the era for 140 from 52 overs in return, winning by 43 runs and completing one of the most stunning upsets in cricket history, defeating the previously invincible West Indies.
Amarnath and Madan Lal (3-31) each took three wickets, and one memorable moment was the sight of Kapil Dev running a great distance (about 18-20 yards) to take a catch to dismiss Richards, the West Indies top scorer with 33 from 28 balls.
Amarnath was the most economical bowler, conceding just 12 runs from his seven overs while taking 3 wickets, and was once again awarded the Man of the Match award for his all-round performance.
So, India was on the world radar after winning the world cup and successfully hosting the Asiad 1982.
I recall my parents watching the match live on DD late till midnight and virtually all streets empty that day, sitting on the edge of their seats and staring aghast and surprised at an unlikely victory of "Kapil's Devils".
Meanwhile, Delhi went a makeover with the Asiad a year back and a mega project was under completion on the outskirts of Delhi in Gurgaon, Haryana.
The Government was under tremendous pressure and the then prime Minister, Smt. Indira Gandhi was determined to make his son's dream project, Maruti, a success at any cost.
Suzuki, a relatively small player at that time, was doing exceedingly well in its home turf, Japan and Chairman Mr. O. Suzuki showed great interest, commitment and worked very hard to secure a partnership with the Indian government and so, in mid of that year, an agreement was signed between
The government and Suzuki, which had great competencies in compact car manufacturing, became the first MNC to enter the Indian market in mass automobile production.
Thus, Maruti Udyog Limited was born.
Pilot production began in September 1983, just in time the facility was set up in record 16 months and this started to mark the end of License raj. Maruti Suzuki bought the art of Japanese work culture and practices and also introduced the concept of kaizen, continuous improvement and also bought the concept of Just-In-Time and Lean manufacturing (originally started by Toyota and followed by other Japs in early 1950s).
There was a sea change in the way the Indian industry worked and "fast and mass" was replacing "slow and limited" production techniques, thus signaling the beginning of the end of wait periods.
Commercial production began in end November, 1983, and the car that rolled out was a version of Suzuki Alto, SS80, renamed as Maruti 800 (the latter denoting the engine capacity), and it was introduced in two versions- standard and deluxe, the latter which came with all the bells and whistles like AC, RDC player from clarion, leather seats, digital clock etc.
December 14, 1983 marked the official launch of the company and the car and the first customer who was handed over the keys of a white car was Delhi based Mr. Harpal Singh, who still drives his car till today.
The response was tremendous, IIRC, the launch price was Rs. 48,000 and it was jacked up to Rs. 54,000 a year later.
It came in variety of shades like red, white, blue, brown and green etc.
The Maruti mania continued to keep growing and for the first time ever, sales exceeded 5 figures and 1984 was termed as a turnaround year for the Indian automobile and also gave birth to the Indian components Industry.
But, behind all this chiggy wiggy Maruti mania, little did India knew that two major tragedies in 1984 would rock the nation to the core.......
Great write-up Sid.
M800 did revolutionize the auto industry in India.
Also I never knew that Maruti was named after Sanjay Gandhi's girlfriend.
That's a good narration buddy, and lots of new information too, like Maruti was named after Sanjay Gandhi's girlfriend etc.
Glad to hear that Mr. Harpal Singh still owns the 1st M800. Does anyone know who owns the first Nano?lol:
1984 and 1985:
Tragedy strikes India 4 fold.
On the other side, a new entrant in the passenger car industry and another small car is launched.
1984 was the year of Maruti mania, but on the other side, political unrest continued in northern parts of the country.
Tragedy struck the nation by a series of events like the operation blue star, followed by the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi on October 1984.
However, a major industrial catastrophe was witnessed when in December, 1984, in Bhopal a fatal leak at Union Carbide plant of Methyl Iso Cynade (MIC) gas instantly killed thousands instantly and exposed the atmosphere with toxic gases, reverberating our country for years to come, even till today.
Behind all this, Maruti udyog launched India's fist multi purpose vehicle, the van christened OMNI in 1984. It was priced slightly above the 800, in the high 50s.
Made available in 5 seater versions with flat roof and high roof, it was a version of Suzuki every, sold as commercial vehicle in Japan.
It made sense for families looking for a spacious and comfortable vehicle to carry loads and passengers together and its practical nature, coupled with maximum cubic centimeters per rupee space to price ratio made it an instant hit, a trend that continues till today.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, India also got its first "luxury car", the fastback designed STANDARD 2000 with a vanguard motor. It was also India's first car with a power assisted steering. While its looks and features made it an object of desire, its high price and gas guzzling motor was the beginning of a premature disaster.
On the other side of the Atlantic, disaster did struck on June 23rd, 1985 when a flight of Air India, Flight 182, destined to New Delhi from Canada via Heathrow UK was bombed using a radio kept inside a suitcase and as a result, it exploded mid air and it plunged burning into the Atlantic, killing all 329 aboard.
It was one of he early models of Boeing 747 and only the second 747 plane that Air India had acquired, christened "Emperor Kanishka".
While Maruti 800 was selling, a new company, Sipani, entered the hatchback market with a version of MONTANA , first car made if fibre body.
It was powered by a diesel motor and was a version of Sipani dolphin sold in the UK.
Based in Bangalore, India, Sipani had its origins in Sunrise Automotive Industries Ltd (SAIL), which was set up in 1974 with help from British manufacturer Reliant – best known for their quirky three-wheeled cars.
The first product of Sunrise Automotive was a curious-looking three-wheeler called the Badal, based loosely on the Reliant Robin but with completely different 3 door or 5 door bodywork and a rear-mounted 198cc engine.
In the early 1980s, Sipani replaced the Badal with the Dolphin, a locally-manufactured version of the recently discontinued reliant Kitten, Compared with the Badal, the Dolphin was a revelation. The combination of the Reliant-developed 848cc engine and the light, synthetic bodyshell gave the car sprightly performance, and drivers must have been grateful for the extra wheel, but the Dophin had a huge flaw: in India, where all cars are either 5-door hatchbacks/estates or 4-door saloons, the Dolphin was a 2-door model (or 3-door in estate form).
Due to the strict restrictions and regulations imposed by the government the car could only be sold in the south of India. Shortly after its launch, the all-conquering Suzuki-based Maruti 800 stole the small car show, forcing Sipani to react. The result was a hastily modified Dolphin called the Sipani Montana – a model born out of necessity, though at least it now had the option of two extra doors, so important to success in the Indian market. In 1985 a subsidiary company, Dolphin Motors Ltd, was set up by Dinesh Sipani, a director of Sipani Automobiles, to handle sales and distribution.
Sipani soon recognised the need to replace the Montana with something more modern and acceptable, effectively marking the end of their relationship with Reliant who had since reverted to building three-wheelers. Having progressed from the Badal, Sipani had no wish to go back to three-wheelers, and besides, India had since legislated that only auto-rickshaw taxis could be so equipped. Thus, the Montana was soon supplanted by the Montana D1, which despite the name was a completely different (if not entirely new) car. Based on the Daihatsu Charade, it could at least boast 100% local content due to its combination of Maruti and Mahindra parts, and a new diesel engine sourced from a Mitsubishi subsidiary in Coimbatore.
(excerpts from Austin rover online UK)
1986 will be an year to look forward to when a new model, SB 308 will hit the Indian streets.
Pictures at the previous post in order of appearance:
I enjoy reading your threads.
Is this your statement or wikipidia excerpts ? sure you were not born in 1983
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