RIP – The ‘Indian’ Ambassador

Rather we can say that ‘our’ Ambassador is now French! Peugeot SA recently bought the rights from Hindustan Motors to use the brand name Ambassador at a cost of Rs.80 crores. Also known as Amby, it was an iconic brand in India and many of us share our first rides in this automobile. It is still seen running as taxis in many cities in India and also a lot of ‘babus’ (ministers/govt officials) get driven around in an Amby. A lot of Indians still swear on the sturdiness of this machine and they’re yet to find a much comfortable car than an Ambassador.

Amby though has a rich Indian heritage; was primarily British. Ambassador was an automobile manufactured by Hindustan Motors. It was in production from 1958 to 2014 with few improvements and changes over its production lifetime. The Ambassador is based on the Morris Oxford series III model, first made by Morris Motors Limited at Cowley, Oxford in the United Kingdom from 1956 to 1959. Modelled after the British Morris Oxford, the Ambassador was the first car to be made in India!

Let us see the premise of the downfall of this legend:

  • Outdated – While the ‘original’ British Morris Oxford ceased to exist in 1959 in Great Britain; the HM Ambassador sold at premium as it was the only few automobile brand to exist in India. It  began losing its dominance in the mid-1980s when Maruti Suzuki introduced its low-priced 800 hatchback. It lost further cachet and market share when global automakers began setting up shop in India in the mid-1990s, offering models with better design and technology.
  • Hindustan Motors – HM is to be blamed for the dwindling sales of this machine. While other Indian OEMs were able to revive/better the imported models (say Willys were re-engineered to become modern day Mahindra’s!); HM was unable to bring significant changes to the age old Amby. It is rather a surprise on how Ambassador brand survived 56 years on Indian soil without much changes.
  • Competition –  The options available for Indian consumers spoilt them for choice and the Amby brand lost its significance. The insurgence of Global Automotive OEMs led to innumerous product offerings and Amby lost the race. The major drop in sales was seen post 2006 and the continuous de-growth led to the death of the icon. We present the 15-years (1999-2014) sales analysis for the same :

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Sales Trend Graph:

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With the ‘Amby’ sales declining rapidly from a high of 24,000 units a year in the mid-1980s to under 12,000 a decade later and less than 6,000 in the mid-2000s, the HM management struggled to position the car and had to put an end to the production in 2014.

We now hope that the PSA group could bring back the Amby and give it the life it deserves. We Indians have a taste for legends (RE, M&M, etc are thriving on it) and would love to see an updated Amby back on Indian roads. We are also sure that the Amby can also give a headstart to PSA for connecting with the Indian consumer and become a household name.

If you’ve missed on how our Indian Amby fared amongst the best Taxis of the world; do click on the video here:

Indian Car Sales Figures – January 2017

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Model-wise Sales Data

A look at Top 25 selling brands –

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Basis the feedback from one of our readers (Mr. Paul Dennis Padayatti); we are incorporating Segment-wise Best sellers as well.

Top Selling Hatchbacks (entry & mid level) –

1 Top Hatch

Top Selling Premium Hatches –

3 Hatch

Top Selling Compact Sedans –

2 - CS

Top Selling Sedans –

5 Sedan

Top Selling Compact SUVs –

4 C SUV

Top Selling MUVs –

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Top Selling SUVs –

6 SUV

January 2017 Car Sales – Snapshot

Highlights –

  • The Pre-Budget month grew a healthy 14% in Jan’17 vis-a-vis Jan’16. The growth was attributed by the factors of heavy discounting of 2016 models by the OEMs and was particularly led by Maruti Suzuki. The Indo-Japanese car maker crossed the 50% Market Share in Jan’17 and started the year with a bang. Also Jan’17 marked the launch of 2 crucial products to their respective OEMs – Ignis for Nexa & Hexa for Tata.
  • Hyundai too registered a steady growth of over 10% but was way lower than that of the market leader. However, Feb’17 can bring more excitement to the Korean MNC – the new Grand i10 launch is slated this month.
  • Honda however recovered the Fourth Spot in the rankings table. Though the OEM has de-grown 9% YoY; it has grown ~55% when compared to Dec’16! The upcoming City facelift in Feb’17 can improve the game for Honda.
  • Hexa dispatches would have started in Jan’17 and the same is clearly seen in Tata’s numbers. The company has seen steady numbers now and Hexa’s success will define Tata’s 2017!
  • Luxury Brands have now encountered their worst phase in India. The effects of Demonetization seems to have lingered and not a single luxury brand registered growth in Jan.

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Product Feature : Tata Hexa

Hexa is one of the most ambitious project of Tata Motors and a lot is at stake for the Indian Automaker with its launch. Let’s see how the product’s success will be significant for Tata –

  • It will be Tata’s second attempt to step in the premium vehicle space.  Earlier Tata’s have burnt their fingers with the Aria and would want to ensure that they leave no stone unturned for Hexa’s success. Also note that Hexa will be the costliest Tata vehicle to be displayed in the showroom as on date.
  • Tata Brand Repositioning – With Hexa, Tata would want to go away with the badge of manufacturing ‘unreliable’, ‘cheap’ and ‘low quality’ cars. Tata’s have invested a lot of time and money in terms of making Hexa niggle-free, premium and feature laden car.
  • Cater to a unrepresented market – MUV space in the Rs.12-18 Lakhs is empty as of now (earlier catered by the previous-gen Innova). Literally Hexa got to fill Innova’s shoes; which is not an easy task at all! The customers in this segment have already got habituated with Innova’s quality and reliability – it’ll be a big feat for Tata if they are able to successfully lure these customers to their fold.
  • Will ensure sustainability – After a lot of turmoil, Tata’s saw growth in the Indian operations last year due to the success of Tiago. They’d want to continue this momentum with Hexa and enhance their overall volumes.
Arizona-Blue
Tata Hexa

Before talking about the specs, lets look on how Tata has worked to improve Hexa’s quality aspect. Some of the components were sourced internationally. For Ex –

  • LED tail lamps from South Korea
  • Brushed Aluminum surrounds on air vents from Germany
  • Soft touch plastics from USA
  • Seat covers from Germany Benecke-kaliko

Tata claims to have put the Hexa through 8 lakh km of road testing (cumulative). The Hexa was tested across three continents – Asia, Australia and Europe, in temperatures ranging from – 20 C to 50 C. Detailed Supplier list here for reference:

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Source: The Automotive India

Hexa was launched on 18th Jan 2017 amongst much fanfare. It is currently available with a 2.2L Diesel engine and offers a fuel efficiency of 14.4 kmpl. The price (ex-showroom Delhi) for the variants are:

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Also let’s have a look at the specifications of Hexa:

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Exterior Highlights:

Exteriors

Interiors Highlights:

Interiors

Comfort & Convenience Features:

Comfort

Safety Features:

safety

Color Lineup:

colors

Car of the year 2016!

We decided to announce the Car of the Year 2016 basis the sales statistics of the Calendar Year. 2016 was an interesting year with many new launches holding the flag for the respective OEMs and NEWER segments were created. Indian love for SUVs was showcased in the overall design of the manufacturers and products like Kwid (hatchback with a SUV look), KUV100 (bigger hatck with SUV inspired design) sold in good numbers. This also heralded the birth of recently launched Ignis. Let us see who wins the race to become the Car of the Year 2016 –

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Top 25 selling cars of 2016

*The rows highlighted in Yellow are the cars which were launched in the Indian soil in the past 18 months. Also these cars would be in the race of the Car of the Year award.

Top selling Hatchbacks of 2016 –

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Top selling Sedans of 2016 –

3

Top selling UVs (MUVs/SUVs) of 2016 –

4

And the Auto Punditz car of the year award goes to – MARUTI NEXA BALENO!!! Baleno was instrumental in establishing Nexa network in India post the dismal sales of S-Cross. It sold over a lakh units in past 12 months and gave a really tough competition to the segment leader i20 (it even outsold i20 if you remove the i20 active numbers!). The product even as of date commands a waiting period of over 3 months and is still sold without any discounts! It created a benchmark in terms of features that a Maruti car can offer and stood the test of time. See how crucial Baleno was for Nexa’s success in India –

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We have made a comparison of how valuable a product had been to the overall OEM’s sales numbers and Baleno topped the list – with over 66% contribution to Nexa’s volumes in India it in a way ensured that the viability of Nexa showrooms in India. Though the car was launched in the last quarter of 2015; we would name it Car of the Year 2016 because the sales assessment for the model was not done in 2015 CY (also unfortunately missed by major Auto Journalists/TV Shows).

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Auto Punditz Car of the Year 2016