At the moment, Maruti has only success stories in its car lineup. But this was not the case always. Go back a decade or two, and we could see some cars which even India’s top manufacturer could not manage to convince the Indian car buyer with. Here are some of them.
Maruti 1000 sedan
Before the Maruti esteem, there was the Maruti 1000! This was the first Maruti sedan in India, and despite being somewhat underpowered, was reasonably popular. Ask your parents and they might remember Maruti 1000 ads in the magazines of the 80s! The Maruti 1000 was considered a premium car when it was launched commanding a price tag of Rs. 3,81,000, in 1990. Powered by a 970-cc engine producing 46 bhp, the 1000 weighed in at just 825 Kg with former PM Rajiv Gandhi a big fan. The car though did not make it big, and when Maruti finally launched the Esteem with a bigger engine, the 1000 was given a quiet burial.
Maruti Omni High Roof
The Omni High Roof was quite visible on our streets in the 90s, and even in the early 90s, there were a lot of them around. It was often used as a small goods van, or as little school buses. Even families bought them sometimes for the extra headroom.
Zen Carbon and Steel
The Maruti Zen was launched in India in 1993 and the hatchback has a cult-like following in India. However, when Maruti decided to introduce the Zen Classic, a regular Zen with retro design cues in the form of a three-piece grille, round headlights and steel bumpers, not many Indians cared about it and it was soon discontinued. Finding one of these on the roads today is an extremely rare sight.
The Zen Carbon and Steel were curious cars, but few even at the time knew they existed. They were a limited run, 2-door sports versions of the regular Zen. Maruti made only 50 of them, and then they just disappeared from the market. Some enthusiasts old enough to remember them run grab them even today when they appear in the used car market.
Baleno Altura station wagon / Estate
Maruti tried its hands at station wagons with the Baleno Altura. But like the other station wagons that tried their luck in India – like the Tata Estate, or the Rover Montego estate, it too failed to capture any serious market share and was discontinued. It came with a 1.6-litre petrol engine.
The Maruti Versa had superstar Amitabh Bachchan promoting the vehicle on TV. Maruti, quite right, thought that the Versa would be the perfect upgrade for customers used to the Omni and Omni High Roof. Some families even bought them as their big family car and had a good time too in those days. But it just failed to get any sustained interest in the market and got phased out over time. Maruti later replaced the Versa with an even more affordable version of MPV, the Eeco which went on to become a huge hit in the taxi market.
The Suzuki Kizashi was the carmaker’s response to the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic. The luxury Suzuki sedan was one of the most affordable CBU vehicles on sale in India. However, people’s perception of Maruti Suzuki as an affordable car brand along with its thirsty 2.4-litre petrol engine didn’t give the Kizashi any brownie points with buyers. The lack of a diesel engine also hampered the Kizashi’s chances and it bid India adieu in 2014, three years after it first arrived.
There are a couple more cars to add to this list, such as the Zen Diesel perhaps, or the Estilo later. But these, we think, are the significant ones.