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Zen and the art of automobile updates

autos Updated: Aug 20, 2009 21:38 IST
Sumant Banerji
Sumant Banerji
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

In a move that spells the end of the road for one of the country's best-loved small cars, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd (MSIL) has decided to stop selling cars under the Zen brand next week, when it launches a refurbished 'Estilo'.

Zen, which was launched way back in 1993, is one of the oldest models on the road today, along with the Ambassador and Maruti 800. The car gained popularity in the ’90s with its class-leading looks, peppy drive and jellybean shape.

“Every car has its own utility and its own branding. Our thrust with the new Estilo is on style, and not calling it a Zen
is incidental,” said Mayank Pareek, executive officer, marketing and sales, MSIL.

“This is nothing to be emotional about as the Estilo still has all the characteristics of the Zen. One should not expect the same level of performance or sales from every product as every car is unique on its own,” he added.

To many, the Zen story ended in December, 2006 when Maruti relaunched the car in the guise of the Zen Estilo. Gone was the jellybean, sacrificed for the tall boy look brought into vogue by the Santro and the Wagon-R.

For Maruti, Zen remains one of the biggest successes — the others being the 800, Esteem, Swift and Alto. Till 2006, as many as 6.4 lakh Zens were on the road; the Zen Estilo sold over a lakh units. But the Zen Estilo never quite managed to
fit into the by-then legendary footprint of the old Zen.

“The Zen has a lot of brand equity and there was a feeling that somewhere the Zen Estilo could not meet the customer expectations who were very fond of the old Zen,” said C.V. Raman, chief general manager research and development, MSIL. “The new Estilo has been designed keeping in mind the feedback of the customers.”

“For example we have put in place a new transmission which was a problem area earlier,” he added.

In some ways, the new Estilo is more reminiscent of the original Zen than the exisiting Zen Estilo itself. True, it retains the tall-boy design, but it is understated on the lines of the original. At 998 cc, the engine size is also similar to the Zen’s original 993cc, though the new engine is far more powerful.

When the new Estilo hits the roads on August 25, it will well and truly be curtains for the 16-year-old brand that was Zen.