India is one of the biggest automobile markets in the world with an annual sales of 2.5 million vehicles and is also the fastest growing automobile market. However, India’s auto market, especially that of four-wheelers has evolved only in the last 20 years. Before that, India relied heavily on imported products or products manufactured in a very small number, making them inaccessible for a common man. It was only in 1983 that the Government of India formed an alliance with Suzuki Motors of Japan to launch Maruti Suzuki India that paved the way for the mass produced affordable personal vehicles in India.
Combined with the economic reforms known as LPG of 1991, India opened its arms for auto manufacturers from across the globe. Snatching the opportunity, Indian car manufacturers like Mahindra and Tata, along with South Asian manufacturers like Honda and Hyundai launched their vehicles just ahead of the turn of the millennium, making cars a common household commodity in India.
To celebrate the 72nd Independence Day of India, we did some digging and compiled a list of five such cars that played a major role in setting the future of the automobile industry. We chose the cars not in terms of the sales, but in terms of the impact they made on the Indian market. Here's our list of the top 5 vehicles that changed the course of the Indian automobile industry!
Launched - 1983
There’s no car as powerful as the Maruti 800 in the history of Indian automobiles and by powerful we don’t mean a big engine or output. By powerful, we mean as impactful as the Maruti 800 and due to the obvious reasons. Maruti 800 served for more than 30 years, only to retire in 2005, to make way for the Maruti Suzuki Alto as the brand’s entry level offering. Known as the Suzuki SS in Japan, the car was launched in collaboration between the Japanese automajor Suzuki Motors and Indian Government. Emission norms and increasing pressure from feature rich cars forced Maruti to rethink over the product, and the company discontinued the 800 in metro cities followed by the rest of the India.
Hindustan Motors Ambassador Classic 2800 ISZ. (Image: Stefan Oemisch/Wikimedia)
Hindustan Motors Ambassador
Launched - 1958
Long before Maruti came into the light, one car served as the face of Indian automobile industry – the Hindustan Motors Ambassador. Assembled by Hindustan Motors, the Ambassador was the first car to be locally assembled in India and based on the Morris Oxford from U.K. The first model they assembled was the Morris 10 which was sold as the Hindustan 10. Popularly called as the Amby, the big bulky car became a thing of luxury and necessity at the same time. Politicians, film stars and taxi owners, all used to own this car. Amby faced a huge competition from the aforementioned Maruti 800 and its usage was limited to the government transport and taxis by 1990s. In 2014, Hindustan Motors put the production of the Amby to rest and it wouldn't be wrong to say that despite being of British Origins, Amby was more Indian.
Launched - 1997
Hyundai may be the second largest car maker in India right now, but nobody knew that the South Korean automajor will reach such heights in India in so less time. All thanks to the Hyundai Santro, the first tall-boy design hatchback of the country which was first launched in 1997. Known as the Hyundai Atos in Korea, the Santo challenged the mights of Maruti 800 and Tata Indica. The Santro proved a right gamble for Hyundai and the spacious cabin with good engine and handling made the hatchback a hit among urban buyers. In a strategy to push the Hyundai i10 and Hyundai Eon sales and growing emission norms, Hyundai finally pulled the plug from one of the most popular car in 2014. It would be safe to say that if there’s was any car that could give trouble to Maruti cars, it was the Hyundai Santro.
Mahindra Scorpio SUV 2002. (Imge: Image: Riju K/Flickr)
Launched - 2002
Before we move forward, let us warn you that there can be a lot of disagreement over this car. While the SUVs like Tata Safari and Tata Sierra ignited the quintessential love for the big and buff SUVs, it was Mahindra Scorpio that made the SUV buying a mainstream decision for individuals or families alike. The Scorpio had everything, from being aggressive and bulky looks to low price and spacious interiors. Adding to the credibility to the M&M Scorpio was the fact that it was the first car to be built by M&M, and that too completely in-house, without any help from outside the country. Mahindra Scorpio, along with Tata Safari became the primary choice of politicians, which was another reason for the downfall of HM Ambassador, and they are still being used by politicians in a large number.
1998 Honda City sedan. (Image: Image: Team BHP)
Launched - 1998
Last but not the least is the India’s beloved mid-size sedan – the Honda City. The Honda City sedan first made its way to India in 1998 and wasn’t that successful. Although experts say that the City from 1998 was the best City till date, if driveability and the overall design is to be taken into account. That being said, the Honda has updated the City regularly ever since its launch and has become the largest selling premium car in India. In 2013, Honda shifted the City’s platform from Civic to Jazz and added a diesel engine to the line-up. This was the first time Honda offered a diesel engine in the City and that pushed the sales of the car like anything. Honda City was also the first Honda car in India to get a diesel engine and almost all the cars since then has received this 1.5-litre engine.