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  • Outdated – While the ‘original’ British Morris Oxford ceased to exist in 1959 in Great Britain; the HM Ambassador sold at premium as it was the only few automobile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 :

A 2

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:

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