More than just being the means to take you from one point to another, cars today have evolved to cater to multiple needs of people in the modern day era.
Moreover, with the increase in Per Capita income and affordability, they have evolved to connect with humans emotionally more than ever.
However, cars were not always like this. When the British East India Company brought the first cars to India, only a handful of people could afford them and they were largely out of reach for the common Indians.
But after the Independence in 1947, Indian corporates from Mahindra to the Tata group buckled up and manufactured some models which turned out to be ageless beauties.
As you retire into the coziness of your rooms after celebrating the 75th Independence Day today, let us take you down the memory lane to some of the iconic cars that defined the automotive industry in the country over the decades so far.
Mahindra Jeep (CJ)
Mahindra began producing Willys CJ3A jeep in 1949. This was the first-ever offroader to be made by the company. CJ3A was a 4-wheel drive offroader that was introduced for the Indian audience. It started out as something for the military, but then, it turned out to be the perfect vehicle for the Indian hinterland. Broken roads, gravel roads, dirt roads, monsoon-ravaged quagmires – the Civilian Jeep, or CJ, could handle everything. Arguably, it was the CJ that was the precursor to the modern-day SUV which paved way for the vehicles like Bolero and Scorpio which define the Mahindra brand nowadays.
Hindustan Motors Ambassador
If one car that served as the face of Indian automobile industry for decades until the ninetees is the Hindustan Motors Ambassador. Based on the Morris Oxford from U.K, the Ambassador was the first car to be locally assembled in India. Popularly known as the Amby, the big bulky car became a thing of luxury and necessity at the same time. From politicians to film stars and taxi owners, the Amby became the most sought after car in the 60s through the 80s. The Hindustan Motors tried to revive the brand in the 90s by bringing in the Isuzu engine to power the car but it failed to capitalise, thanks to the introduction of Maruti 800.
The poor man’s car, Maruti 800 triggered a revolution in car manufacturing and sales in India. Launched in 1983, the hatchback literally created a disruption in the Indian market due to its price tag, making cars get under the easy-reach of a common man. Until then, cars were thought to be a luxury product only meant for rich people. Maruti 800 served for more than 30 years, only to retire in 2005 to make way for the Maruti Suzuki Alto as the brand’s entry level offering.
When Hyundai came to India in 1997 offering its first tall-boy designed hatchback Santro, nobody knew the Korean company would go on to become the second largest selling automobile maker in India. Taglined as ‘The sunshine car’ and endorsed by Shahrukh Khan, the Santro challenged the mights of Maruti 800 and Tata Indica. Its spacious cabin with good engine and handling made the hatchback a hit among urban buyers. Hyundai finally pulled the plug from the model in 2014 over emission norms and in a bid to push i10 and i20. It would be safe to say that if there’s was any car that gave any kind of competition to Maruti cars, it was the Hyundai Santro.
Since its launch in 1998, the Honda City has ruled the sedan market for nearly 25 years. The City is synonymous with the Japanese Honda brand and embodies the company’s ethos of providing a well-engineered, practical and yet entertaining car driven over the years. Coupled with Honda’s reliability and the 1.5 litre naturally aspirated rev-happy iVTEC engine, the City is a driver’s pleasure and the owner’s pride. The iconic sedan since then has evolved and has been updated several times keeping the buyers’ preference in mind.
The City is here to stay and for that reason alone Honda too will stay in India.