Call it a late renaissance or just a flash in the pan. The good-old Ambassador, the oldest surviving car on the Indian road, has suddenly hit a purple patch even as the industry as a whole is suffering from a slowdown.
Sales of the Ambassador more than tripled last month to over 500 units as loyal customers as varied as the cabbies in Kolkata to the babus across the country refused to drive or be driven around in any other vehicle.
"The taxi segment in Kolkata has displayed its preference for the golden yellow Ambassador," said Uttam Bose, MD and CEO, Hindustan Motors.
"The company is also witnessing a surge also in the sales of non-taxi segments as well," he added.
"This success is attributable to marketing measures involving foray into remote areas and deep pockets of the country, enhancement of dealership network and financing options."
Sales of the car had suffered due to the lack of a Bharat Stage IV emission norm compliant diesel engine that meant the car could not be sold in 13 major cities of the country including the metros. But the company is now ready with a new engine that will allow it find access to these cities.
"May be our inability to select the right technology partner delayed the developing of BS IV engine," said Bose. "The diesel variants of the car will be available in BS IV-compliant models early next financial year, latest by June 2013. We plan to sell 9,000 units in 2013-14 of which Ambassador may account for 5,000-5,500 units."
Further, a pocket friendly and peppier version of the car is also being developed, possibly in a sub 4-metre avatar, and maybe launched early next year. The shorter length will attract much lower excise duties and enhance the value proposition of the car.
While its sales in February could be an aberration, it may just be the beginning of a fresh lease of life for the five decade old nameplate.