Hindustan Motors announced that the Ambassador has been sold to French automaker Peugeot SA for Rs 80 crore. As the iconic car brand changes hands, here’s a look at the history of the car that ruled Indian roads for many decades.
Owned by the CK Birla Group, Hindustan Ambassador was manufactured at Uttarpara on the outskirts of Kolkata. It must be noted that Peugeot has also signed an agreement with the CK Birla group for re-entering the Indian auto market with a plant in Tamil Nadu.
The Ambassador is born
Since 1958, when the Ambassador, based on Britain’s Morris Oxford, started being manufactured in India, it was the emblem of high social standing. It was laos seen as the symbol of a young independent India’s economic freedom from British colonialism . The car’s ads in newspapers in the bygone era called it the “Ambassadorial Status” for its owners. The same ad referred to the Ambassador as the “ideal car for the chauffeur-driven”. It also boasted of a powerful heart under the hood: zero to 50 kmph in 18 seconds.
The most commonly seen car on the roads was a favourite of politicians, actors, businessmen and even taxi drivers. It spoke of India’s economic development, until, Japanese automaker Suzuki came into India and brought out the Maruti 800 small car.
Just as Kolkata (then Calcutta) slowly lost its once high relevance in India’s commerce, the Ambassador (its main factory was on the outskirts of Calcutta) became an icon no one bought. Ambassador’s status was reduced, rarely bought by a nostalgic Indian, who didn’t care about style, luxury and technology.
In 2013, the year before it shut production, Hindustan Motors sold about 2,200 Ambassadors. It was an end of an era.
Despite its fading fortunes, the Ambassador was the preferred choice for taxis and was voted as the world’s best taxi by global automotive programme Top Gear in 2013.
Falling sales, mounting debt forced Hindustan Motors to discontinue the production of Ambassador at its Uttarpara plant in 2014.
Here are some trivia that are a must know about the iconic Ambassador:
* The ambassador was the first diesel car of India.
* Manufactured between 1958 to 2014, it is the longest produced auto brand.
* Since 1958, there have been seven generations of the Ambassador, beginning with Mark 1 to Encore.
* The last produced model of Ambassador, Encore matched BS IV standards.
* The first Ambassador cost Rs 14000 while the last cost Rs 5 lakh.