The Indian automotive industry has come a long way and there have been many changes in people’s outlook towards cars in the past couple of decades. Earlier, cars were bought by only the rich and these people enjoyed a place of pride in the society. Now it is completely different. Cars have become an absolute necessity whether you want to go from Point A to Point B or outstation trips or just joy rides.
Let’s have a look at some of the most important cars in the history of the Indian automotive scene.
1) Maruti 800 – Ah, how can one forget this vehicle that was launched by Maruti Suzuki way back in 1983. The first version that was launched was the SS80 (seen in the picture) and then it received a major update in 1986. The 800 continued selling well and there was a waiting period which extended a couple of years! People were actually ready to pay a premium to get their hands on this. The ones who did manage to get this baby home saw a steep rise in their social status whereas the youngsters who bought it were termed as “cool” in that age! Maruti Suzuki gave the 800 a minor update in the 1990s where it got new lights, new bumpers and a new dashboard. In the next decade, the car got a 5-speed manual gearbox along with an MPFI engine. The 800 got a minor update in 2005-06 where the lights were replaced with newer clear lens versions. Maruti Suzuki finally axed the 800 following the BS4 norms and the Alto 800 is surely going to take the legacy forward. The Maruti Suzuki 800 sold more than 25 lakh units in its lifespan.
2) Maruti Swift – Maruti Suzuki launched the Swift in India in 2005 along with some minor marketing in the movie “Bunty Aur Babli” and this sporty looking hatchback sure won the hearts of many Indians. At that time there were hardly any good-looking hatchbacks in our market and the Swift surely carried some appeal, more so because it was from the house of Maruti. Originally, the Swift was launched with the 1.3-litre petrol engine from the Esteem but it was then replaced by a 1.2-litre petrol K12 engine which is not only more frugal but also gives better performance. The Swift also comes with a 1.3-litre diesel Multijet engine from Fiat. The vehicle got a minor update in 2007 and the all-new version was launched in 2011. The 2011 Swift also came with VVT technology in the petrol variants. The Maruti Swift also managed to spawn a sedan version called the Swift DZire and going by the Swift as well as the Swift DZire’s sales numbers, it is pretty sure that these cars are “DZired” by many Indians.
3) Honda City – Now does this car even need any introduction? Honda entered the Indian market with the City in 1998 and the car immediately picked up well since there was no real competition in this segment. Sure, Mitsubishi had the Lancer and Maruti sold the Esteem and Baleno, but still the City managed to overtake all its rivals and become the market king. The City got an update in 2001 which included clear lens lights. The City came with 1.3-litre and 1.5-litre petrol engines and the updated version was also offered with a 1.5-litre VTEC engine option for the enthusiasts. The City got a major update and the second generation came out in 2003 and many people felt it looked like a Dolphin. Still, it continued selling well and then Honda gave another update in 2006 in the form of the City ZX and this version looked much better than the previous one. The suspension was also tuned appropriately this time. The third generation City was launched in 2008 and people loved it for its futuristic looks. Come 2011 and the City got another update and now Honda is finally going to launch the fourth generation City in January 2014. The City started losing some of its sales numbers to rivals and Honda is all set to regain the top position by offering the 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel engine from the Amaze. The City is also powered by a 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine.
4) Tata Indica – Tata Motors (then TELCO) was known as a manufacturer of buses and trucks and the Indica was its first foray into the passenger vehicle segment. The Indica was indigenously developed and it was launched in 1998. Right from the beginning, the Indica was full of niggles and not as reliable as the owners expected it to be. Tata continued providing minor updates every now and then to improve the quality of the vehicle. The Indica spawned a sedan version called the Indigo which itself spawned other versions like the Indigo CS and Indigo XL as well as an estate version called the Indigo Marina. Tata then launched the Indica Vista in 2008 and sold it as a premium offering alongside the regular Indica. The Indica was offered with 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrol engines and a 1.4-litre diesel engine whereas the Indica Vista which comes with 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrol engines and the 1.3-litre Multijet diesel from Fiat. The Indica Vista too spawned a sedan version called the Indigo Manza. The Indica is getting too long in the tooth now and Tata is going to replace it with a new vehicle which is codenamed Falcon 4. The Indica showed people that a really spacious car can be had for value pricing. It was the cheapest diesel car in India at the time of launch and brought many people to their first car due to the affordable costs of running a diesel car.
5) Mahindra Scorpio – Mahindra launched the first generation Scorpio way back in 2002 and this SUV was an instant success. To make its buyers happy, the company soon gave the Scorpio a minor update with more comfortable seats, a rear armrest and a dual-tone exterior colour scheme. In 2006, Mahindra launched the “all-new” Scorpio and even though the vehicle was not really “all-new”, it was far better than the first generation. Mahindra then went on to introduce the pickup version of the Scorpio, called Scorpio Getaway and this car found hardly any takers in the domestic market. An automatic version was also launched in 2008. The Scorpio is powered by an mHawk 2.2-litre diesel engine currently. A 4X4 variant is also available but it doesn’t sell as nicely as the regular 2WD variants. The Scorpio is sold in Europe as the Mahindra Goa. The Tata Safari gives some tough competition to the Scorpio but the latter has excelled when it comes to SUV sales.
What cars do you think have made a change in the Indian market?