For nearly 4 decades after India achieved independence, the ” Ambassador” manufactured by Hindustan Motors at their Calcutta works ruled the Indian roads. Some bureaucrats even named the car as ‘His/Her Majesty’. The options were very limited with ‘Premier Padmini’ from Fiat being the only other Indian car.
In 1983, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi handed over the first ever Maruti car to its owner who had won it through a lottery. And, that marked a metamorphosis for the Indian car market. For the last 3 decades Maruti has maintained its pre-eminent position in the small family car segment.
Although Maruti 800 was phased out in 2010, it continues to be the delight of car owners, particularly the small families from the upwardly mobile Indian middle class. What has made Maruti so popular among the Indian masses absorbing nearly 3 million cars over 3 decades and compelling other international car manufacturers to set up shop in India?
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Thoughtfully designed for small families
Maruti was originally conceived as a 100% Indian car. Mr. Sanjay Gandhi, son of Indira Gandhi is credited with the concept and implementation of the project. However, due to a series of related events, Suzuki from Japan became a partner in Maruti and Maruti was re-christened as Maruti Suzuki. Nevertheless, the cars became an instant hit with the huge population of India and a car revolution of sorts had started. Inspite of many other international brands like Hyundai, Chevrolet, Ford, Opel, Fiat, Volkswagen, Toyota, Nissan, attempting to dent the market share of Maruti over the years, their success rate has been negligible.
What makes Maruti such a wonderful car for the Indian needs?
Though there are several reasons for Maruti to remain in the forefront of small cars in the Indian market, there are at least 5 major reasons that contribute to their success
1. Fuel Efficiency
The superior fuel efficiency of 16-18 kms in city traffic conditions was perhaps the biggest attraction initially, for a market saddled with petrol guzzlers.
2. Compact Design
The Indian middle class always wanted a compact car unlike the Ambassador or Premier Padmini and Maruti provided the answer at the right time
3. Great Engine Performance
The great engine performance and therefore, low maintenance costs were just what the doctor had prescribed for the Indian car market.
4. Wide Service Network
Across the length and breadth of the country, it is never difficult to find an authorized service center for Maruti, and that came as a huge relief for the owners.
5. Great Price
The initial batches of Maruti 800 were sold for under Rs.1, 00,000 which was in line with the expectation of the Indian middle class at that time. Over the years, inflation and other factors have pushed the prices up and the consumers are not complaining.
In modern times, Maruti is offering multiple models in the compact segment as well as Sedans and Vans. However, the pre-eminence of Maruti 800 holds sway over a wide array of other small cars on the Indian roads.