"Streets in India are an extraordinary sight for two reasons, one of them the cows that wander sacredly and indifferently through traffic, the other an antiquated-looking automobile with a bowler hat of a roof called the Ambassador. Little in the look of the car has changed during its 41 years on the road"
, writes New York Times
reporter Barry Bearak.
Forget the fact that if you write about India, you need to mention the cows, even if you are from The NY Times. If you are an Indian, born before the 80’s, chances are that your first car was an Amby, as it is called fondly, and sometimes with derision. It was not just your first car, but also the only one that could fit your big family, your relatives and probably half the town- if the situation demanded it, albeit with some discomfort (which ofcourse was the main feature of the Amby).
Times have changed. Today, Hindustan Motors' Ambassador market share has shrunk to less that 5% and shrinking further thanks to their inability to make a transformation from the protectionist era to that of competition spurred by market liberalization. The remaining numbers too heavily rely on the various government agencies and ministers still sticking to this ‘Indian motoring icon’ citing patriotism – regardless of the fact that it was originally created as an desi version of Britain’s Morris Oxford.
Despite various attempts to do a Volkswagen-Beetle-type product revitalization with the Avigo, unimaginative marketing and inadequate planning did not augur well for the company. "The car has so many benefits - its so big it can be used as a mobile office," says Hindustan Motors' chief executive. "On Indian roads, where safety is a big issue, it's rugged. Mechanically, it is unlikely to fail. If it does, any mechanic in India knows how to fix it." Unfortunately, the $25 million plus losses that his company has incurred does not reflect the essence of his views.
Photo courtesy(Main Photo): Jens Benninghoffer