To own a car was something of a huge asset in the seventies. The Premier Padmini Fiats and Ambassador cars were the prized possessions of the Indian rich nearly two and half decades ago, until Maruti 800 came into the picture. It soon took over as the most popular and economic car. After serving in the Indian markets for over 25 years, this small car is bidding adieu to the Indian roads after the parent company has decided to stop its production in thirteen cities following stricter fuel and emission rules.
The Maruti 800, which was a status symbol for the middle class, for many a decade, is riding into the sunset. This small car had revolutionized the Indian automotive industry long before the ‘Tata Nano’ was born.
Two decades ago when the compact car, the product of a joint venture between the Indian government and Suzuki, Japan, was launched, it took no time to leave behind the ungainly Ambassador and Fiat, instantly becoming a darling of the aspiring class. It had helped millions of people realize their dream of owning a car.
Launched in 1983, the ‘Maruti car’, as it is popularly called, has become an icon of the Indian automobile Industry. It has sold nearly 25 lakh units since its inception.
I still remember the white Maruti 800 my family owned in the late 1980’s and in the 1990’s before selling it off in 1999. We had used the car for more than a decade and a lot of sentiments were associated with it. The car had often had all my neighbours crammed in together with our school bags as we were ferried to school by our parents. All my neighbours too had Maruti 800s, all of different colours and it was nice to see them come one behind the other.
Unlike today there weren’t many choices of cars to select from nor was the average income such that people could think of getting high end cars. Maruti 800 proved to be the best and safest option and the roads could be seen teeming with Maruti 800s of all colours. Everyone having a car at present, I believe, must have owned a Maruti 800 in the past, as it was the first obvious choice while bringing this additional ‘member’ to the household.
Maybe since it was the only option of purchase during an era gone and it was the symbol of status and money at that time, a lot of nostalgia and memories are associated with this car, which was the first indigenously manufactured low cost budget family car.
As the curtains come down on the earliest exponent of the small car segment, it also brings to end an era where a Maruti 800 meant more than just a car. ‘Nano’ is now set to rule the Indian roads – the Rs:1 lakh family car, brain child of Shri Ratan Tata. But the Nano can never connect to the Indian hearts as Maruti 800 had done because of a wider range of budget vehicles available with the rise in income of majority of the population. Also now there is a larger percentage of the rich and upper middle class population in India who can afford to buy higher end cars and also fancies them; cars like ‘Nano’ or ‘Maruti 800’ won’t be match up to their status. So for now, from the 13 cities where Euro IV rules are being enforced, we can simply say — ‘tata… Maruti 800, we’ll miss u!’
The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.