Just over a year ago, someone in Kerala bought a brand new Maruti Baleno and modified it to make it look like a Mercedes Benz A-Class hatchback. The owner has just gotten into some really hot water with the Kerala RTO.
Someone complained about the A-Class-lookalike Baleno that’s been doing the rounds of Kerala roads, to the RTO of that state. RTO officials swung into action, seizing the car, and issuing a show cause notice to the owner of the car, informing him that the car would be de-registered.
The owner of the modified Baleno is said to have asked RTO officials two weeks time to return the car to stock condition. The owner has now produced the car, which has been returned to stock condition, to the RTO. He has also submitted the modified parts of the car to the RTO. Currently, the car is in possession of RTO officials, who also plan to levy a fine on the owner for modifying his car without seeking appropriate permission.
What does the law say?
According to the law, almost all modifications to the structure of the car are illegal. And any modification – even seemingly simple ones such as adding features such as reverse parking camera (that’s already available on the higher variants of the same car) and upsizing tyres, needs approval from RTO authorities. Extensive modifications such as engine swaps and structural changes need re-homologation, and after that RTO approval. This cumbersome process almost makes it impossible for anyone to carry out extensive modifications to a car, legally, in India.
In case of this Baleno, structural parts – the front and rear bumpers – were modified with after-market units. Also, the car’s original identity (Maruti Baleno) was tampered with, and changed to that of a Mercedes A-Class. (or at least something similar to that). The Kerala RTO’s action on the car suggests that these modifications are illegal. In other words, replica cars don’t seem to be legal in India, especially without RTO approval. Meanwhile, here are some legal modifications that you can make to your car without getting into trouble.