Snapshot – The Indian car market is peppered with examples of super-hits and the also rans. It takes guts for an auto maker to actually withdraw a car from its peak. The Toyota Qualis MUV is an exception and there aren’t many such sales spinners who go out on such highs. Some cars arrive low key and over the years, build up a solid reputation, going from strength to strength. Others arrive with a big bang, enjoy good sales initially and have enough strength to last a decade or more. In this two part series, we’ll take a look at five of India’s longest serving ‘veteran’ cars, each of which have had a production run of well over a decade, spanning multiple generations.
First introduced in 1984, the Maruti Omni passenger van is a legend. The oldest serially produced car in India, with a production run spanning over 3 decades, longevity is the Omni’s second name. This veteran is instantly recognizable on Indian roads, and continues to chug along in its no-nonsense way. It’s incredible that a car that’s over 3 decades old continues to find a place in the top-ten selling cars list. Multiple generations connect with the Omni, for the automobile serves as a school van, often forming the first real connection that a young, impressionable soul has with an passenger car. 2017 could signal the end game for the Omni as new crash test safety norms kick into place in India. If Maruti Suzuki decides to stop producing this reliable, fuss free, basic means of four wheeled transport, the Omni could well do a Toyota Qualis by going out on a high note.
The Maruti Suzuki Gypsy, Suzuki Samurai for the rest of the world, has been around since 1985, which gives the off roader about 3 decades of continuous production in India. A steady seller to this day, the mountain goat, as it’s affectionately known for its go-anywhere ability, has a timeless design that appeals to the young and old alike. The Gypsy continues to be the off roader of choice for many in India. Modified Gypsys still turn heads and inspire. The Indian paramilitary forces continue to use this rugged and reliable vehicle for they day to day personnel carrying purposes. Though sold only with a petrol motor in a country where SUV equals diesel, the Gypsy has truly carved a niche for itself.
Said to be named after Sumant (su) Moolgaonkar (mo), an ex-TELCO head, the Tata Sumo was the first real success for the Indian car and utility vehicle giant, Tata Motors, in the passenger car segment. An MUV that reigned supreme on Indian roads until the advent of the Toyota Qualis, the Sumo is not the biggest seller in its segment, but certainly the longest lasting. The grand father of Indian multi utility vehicles (MUV), the Sumo has been around since 1994. With looks inspired vaguely by the Land Rover Defender, one wishes that the MUV’s swansong comes with the Extreme 4X4 Concept version of the Sumo being put into production.
A sedan nameplate that has gone from strength to strength. That’s been the story of the Honda City, a badge that first arrived into India in 1998. Ever since, nearly four generations of this best selling C-Segment sedan have been produced here. The latest generation of the car received a diesel motor and promptly went on to become the largest selling sedan in its segment. The City Type II with VTEC technology (Honda speak for variable valve timing) continues to be a top choice for enthusiasts hitting the modified-for-performance car button. The City defines Honda in India, and with the kind of success it has enjoyed, is a brand that seems well on its way to last for many more years
The Tata Safari, introduced at the 1998 Indian Auto Expo, is the country’s first SUV to be designed, developed and manufactured here. Tata Motors has been steadily improving the Safari over the years, and the Storme variant of the SUV is one of the more refined offerings in its segment. Known for big space and imposing street presence, the Safari also gained power and torque over the years. The latest versions of this SUV feature a 2.2 liter DICOR turbo diesel motor with 138 Bhp-320 Nm on tap, a far cry from the first versions 86 Bhp-190 Nm outputs. Known affectionately as the truck, the first generation Safari was based on the Tata 207 pick up truck platform, while its diesel engine was derived from that of the 407 light truck.