India has come a long way since our first day of independence. Just 72 years young, we've achieved so much progressing in every field from medicine, science, manufacturing and much more. India is well on its way to become one of the leading economies in the world, and supporting this endeavour has been the automotive industry over the years. Domestic and international manufacturers have made India their home and produced cars that changed the way we travel today. From contract manufacturing vehicles, developing our own first car, to exporting vehicles for the world, we truly have arrived and there's still more room to grow. As we celebrate our 72nd Independence Day, let's a take a look back at the cars that played a major role in shaping up the the Indian automobile market as we know it today.
1. Maruti 800
We're sure this is the first car that must've come to your mind when you first read the headline, and rightly so. The Maruti 800 was a revolutionary vehicle that made the aspiration of owning a vehicle a reality. The car made Harpal Singh, the very first owner of the 800 a celebrity overnight, having received the keys from the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi back in 1983 The Maruti 800 also paved way for Maruti to become the largest automaker in the country with the highest market share at present. The Maruti 800 was one of the best-selling cars in India and served the masses for a good 30 years before the company decided to pull the plug one of its highly loved models. The 800 was officially discontinued in India in 2014, but continues to find a permanent place in photos, garages and most importantly fond memories of many Indians.
2. Hindustan Ambassador
The car that still commands prestige in India, the Hindustan Ambassador started life as the Morris Oxford in the UK, and was brought to India in 1958. For many Indians, it was their first car with the Indian auto market then limited with choices. The Ambassador though was popular with almost everyone from businessmen, politicians to bureaucrats. With a white paint job and a red light on top, it was all that you needed to command respect in the country. Waiting periods for the Amby, as it was fondly called, would extend to years and while the car was not exactly perfect with a number of issues, it still remained a popular choice against the offerings from Fiat. For the older folk, the Ambassador brings back fond memories of an India that was on the cusp of progress. Hindustan Motors ended production of the Ambassador in 2014 and while the brand could make a comeback in the future, there's no denying that the car will always bring prestige to its owner.
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3. Mahindra Scorpio
While the Tata Safari was already present in the market, it's Mahindra Scorpio that has been largely attributed to ignite the SUV love amidst the Indian masses. The SUV also established Mahindra as a passenger vehicle maker and capable enough to develop its own products. Until then, the Indian automaker was a contract manufacturer for Willys Jeeps. The Scorpio however took the go-anywhere capability of an off-roader and clubbed in a more practical setup with spacious interiors, a powerful engine and a generally drive-able nature. It certainly look butch and went like that too. Over the years, the Scorpio has received countless upgrades, while the big one arrived in 2014 with the SUV getting a complete overhaul and moving upmarket as well. Despite the arrival of a number of compact SUVs, the Scorpio continues to command a healthy sales figure every month and is the only car on this list to still remain in production.
4. Tata Indica
The Tata Indica was India's first indigenously developed passenger car and kick-started Tata Motors' passenger vehicle division. The car arrived in 1998 and was quick to capture the fancy of India which were now looking at a market that was slowly expanding. The Indica arrived at a time when liberalisation had just kicked in and foreign car makers were finding their footing in the Indian market. Tata's first hatchback made way for a host of small cars in the company's range right from the Indigo, to the Vista and Manza models. The country's first subcompact sedan - Tata Indigo eCS was also based on the Indica platform. The car was also sold overseas in Europe and Africa, and sold as the Rover CityRover in the UK. As the Tiago and Tigor captured the fancy of the Indian buyers, Tata Motors decided to lay to rest its very first passenger car with production ending in April 2018.
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5. Hyundai Santro
India loves small cars and if the Maruti 800 established that fact, it was the Hyundai Santro that affirmed it once again. The Santro arrived in 1997 with a little known Korean car maker Hyundai. The car maker was finding its way in the Indian market and an entry-level offering was a need for the growing middle-class customer base. The Santro was a smash hit and soon made Hyundai a household name. The fact that Shah Rukh promoted the little car, made a big difference in making the brand popular. In its 20 years of presence in the country, Hyundai went on to become the country's second largest automaker by market share, and is the largest exporter of vehicles. While the Santro was pulled off showroom floors in 2014, the nameplate is all set to make a comeback in an all-new avatar later this year.