Monday, February 15, 2010

~%~ Maruti 800: Story of a little giant ~%~


"The Maruti 800 made India a country that is now on wheels," R C Bhargava, former managing director, Maruti.

The iconic Maruti 800, which stood as the symbol of pride in the garages of millions of Indian homes for years together, is set to bid goodbye. For over 25 years, this small car made giant strides, virtually monopolising the roads in India.

It was in 1983, that this small car stole the hearts of millions, and its launch was a turning point in the history of Indian automobile sector. The small car soon became an inherent part of many Indian households.

The Indian car industry was then represented by two companies, Hindustan Motors and Premier Automobiles, with a volume of 40,000 cars annually. The Maruti-800 changed the dynamics of the trade. It lived up to the aspirations of the Indian middle-class.

The Maruti 800 was Sachin Tendulkar's first car. It was also the first car for many others who could not afford a car for years. . . Priced at Rs 52,500 in 1983, it was a treasure on wheels! 

The company plans to phase out the Maruti 800 by 2016, when the country is expected to embrace new emission norms, Maruti Suzuki India said.

Along with the M800, the company will also end the production of its second oldest model, the utility van Omni.

In the initial phase, the two models will be done away with in 11 cities from 2010, where the Bharat Stage-IV emission norms (which is equivalent to Euro-IV norms) will become applicable. These cities are Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Surat, Kanpur, Hyderabad, Pune, Agra and Ahmedabad.

Under the new rules, only Euro IV-compliant models can be sold in these cities and the cost of upgrading the Maruti 800 or the Omni to the new emission standards would be very high.

The sales of the two models have dropped though it is still popular in small towns. The company sold 46,953 Maruti 800s between April 2008 and February 2009, a 34 per cent drop from 63,200 cars sold in the same period in 2007-08.

A truly people's car, the Maruti 800 had a long winning ride on account of low fuel consumption, high efficiency, good design suited for Indian roads and its affordablity.
Maruti 800 was the best value for money car on India roads. Till 2004, Maruti 800 was the India's largest selling compact car. Now, Alto tops the sales.
So how did the Maruti 800 come into existence? 

The first Maruti 800 (M800) rolled out from the Maruti plant in Gurgaon on December 14, 1983. The company was then called Maruti Udyog Ltd.

The Maruti 800 alone has contributed over 27 lakh (2.7 million) units since its inception in December 1983.

It was Sanjay Gandhi's idea to launch an indigenous, cost-effective, compact car for the Indian middle-class in 1970. The government led by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi passed a resolution for the development and production of a 'People's Car'.

Sanjay Gandhi was granted exclusive contract and licence to manufacture the car, he was also offered free land and other tax sops. This move was strongly criticized.

Image: (Left to right) Maruti chairman Shinzo Nakanishi, former managing director Jagdish Khattar and director Kinji Saito celebrate as their company Maruti Udyog Limited's shares were opened for listing at the Bombay Stock Exchange on July 9, 2003. 

The project was met with stiff opposition from several quarters. The protests were over the funding for the project which was allegedly from ministers and businessmen. However, before the project materialised, Sanjay Gandhi died in a tragic plane crash.
The company was liquidated, but that was not the end of it. Since it held a lot of promise for India, Indira Gandhi nationalised it.

Maruti Udyog Ltd was thus established in February 1981.

"It is my desire, that this car will serve the ordinary people of India and they will have no complaint about this car. I hope it will contribute in every aspect of nation-building and will serve the Indian people," Indira Gandhi said after inaugurating the Maruti plant at Gurgaon.

Harpal Singh was the the first owner of Maruti 800. The keys of the car were handed over to him by Indira Gandhi.

Despite its tremendous success, however, it has not been an easy ride for Maruti Udyog.

Image: The first owner of Maruti 800

Initially, no international player was keen to join hands with Maruti. Fortunately for it, however, Osamu Suzuki, president of Suzuki Motor Corporation, during a visit to India, read a report on the project and asked his officials to bid for the project.

Suzuki Motors joined the government as a joint venture partner with 50 per cent share.
The actual production commenced in 1983 with the Maruti 800, based on the Suzuki Alto Keicar. At that time, Maruti's competitors were the Ambassador and the Premier Padmini.

The idea was to make a people's car for the middle class people who could not afford to buy a big car. 

Over the years, the Maruti product range has widened impressively. Suzuki Motor Corporation now has majority stake in the company.

More than half the number of cars sold in India wear a Maruti Suzuki badge.
The company has sold over 7.5 million vehicles in India and exported over 500,000 units to Europe and other countries.

In 2008, for the ninth consecutive year Maruti won the customer satisfaction survey conducted by J D Power Asia.

Image: The Maruti SX 4
In March 2009, Maruti Suzuki India reported a 21.87 per cent jump in its total sales during March at 85,669 units as compared to 70,296 units in the same month last year.
The company also recorded its highest-ever annual sales in 2008-09 at 7,92,167 units as against 7,64,842 units in the previous fiscal, a rise of 3.57 per cent. The previous highest annual sales were in 2007-08.

The turnover for the fiscal 2007-08 stood at Rs 17,860.30 crore (Rs 178.603 billion) and a net profit of Rs 1,730.80 crore (Rs 17.308 billion).

Starting with the iconic Maruti 800, Maruti Suzuki today offers 12 models with over 100 variants. The Maruti family is now bigger and better, with a variety of cars to suit every budget -- Alto, A-Star, Swift, Wagon R, Estillo, and sedans DZire, SX4 and sports utility vehicle Grand Vitara.

These cars will take the Maruti legacy forward, as the good old Maruti 800, and the Omni, bid farewell after a successful and historic innings.

Image: Models stand next to Maruti Suzuki's 'Kizashi', concept car, during the 9th Auto Expo in New Delhi. 


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