Snapshot – The old have to necessarily make way for the new, and this is not just a principle enshrined in the immutable ethos of nature, but also a principle that the living, thriving world in the automotive industry follows. In this vein, not one, not two, but three iconic cars have driven into the sunset in the Indian car market, in a single year. CarToq takes a look at the three cars that have said goodbye to the Indian car market forever.
Maruti Suzuki 800
The Maruti Suzuki 800 arrived into India in 1983 and had a production run that spanned a little more than three decades. The car introduced Indian buyers to Japanese reliability and fuel efficiency, so much so that it eventually obliterated Indian competition that came in the form of the Hindustan Ambassador and the Premier Padmini. The Maruti 800 is a legend, one that saw the Indian government (Maruti Udyog Limited) come together with Suzuki Motor Competition of Japan, to build a car that was to make mobility affordable to the masses.
The Maruti 800 went through many iterations, right from the carburetted version that debuted in India, to the fuel injected 5 speed version that could actually max out its speedometer of 140 Kph. However, an engine that stayed with the 800 throughout its Indian sojourn for over three decades was the F8D, three cylinder petrol motor displacing 796 cc. Maruti Suzuki built no less than 2.87 million units of the 800 hatchback in India, of which 2.66 million were sold here with the rest exported. With a 31 year production run, the Maruti 800 holds the distinction of being the second longest production car in India.
The longest production car in India and instantly recognizable, the Hindustan Ambassador, was first built by Hindustan Motors in 1958, at the automaker’s Uttarpara factory, off Kolkata. Faced with debilitating losses, the Uttarpara factory ground to halt earlier this year, but note before rolling out more than 5 generations of the venerable Ambassador, a car that generations of Indians grew up with. Known as a relic of the Raj, the Ambassador was based on the Morris Oxford Series II, a car with definitive British origins.
In the Ambassador’s later years, the 1.5 liter BMC petrol engine that was quintessentially British made way for powerplants from the Orient, Japan in this case. With an Isuzu heart, the Ambassador motored on in India, and the latest versions of the diesel powered model used turbocharging to keep tailpipe emissions in check and to stay relevant in the rapidly changing Indian car market. While rivals such as the Maruti 800, and later the new crop of modern cars overtook the stately Ambassador, there’s still an old world charm about the car that induces motoring enthusiasts to imagine a Mini-like future for their beloved Amby. This sadly, might never fructify given Hindustan Motors’ precarious financial position.
Hyundai Santro Xing
Hyundai came, saw and conquered the car market in India. Currently the second largest car maker in the country, Hyundai’s glory days began with its lynch pin, the Santro. The Santro Xing, a second generation version of the original Santro hatchback, has been in production for over a decade, right from 2003. The end of November will mark the end of the Santro Xing, one of the legendary modern cars that operated in the budget end of the Indian market, giving scores of Indian buyers a reliable, affordable and comfortable option of four wheeled mobility.
Even as the last few units of the Santro Xing roll out of Hyundai India’s Irungattukottai production facility at Sriperumbudur, off Chennai, the car market is preparing to bid farewell to the first Indian tall-boy car. In its latest iteration, and with a 1,086 cc-4 cylinder petrol engine in tow, the Santro Xing is also available in CNG and LPG guises. While the Santro has none of the lineage, of say a Maruti 800 or a Hindustan Ambassador, the car opened up the Indian market to budget cars from a variety of global car makers.