Wednesday, September 26, 2007

History of Indian Cars

The man invented the wheel in 4000 BC and his journey on the road of mechanized transport had begun. Since then he continually sought to devise an automated, labor saving machine to replace the animal that he used for his commuting needs. After consistent attempts, in the early 1760s, he was successful in the building of the first steam driven tractor in France. This was initiated by Captain, Nicolas Jacob Cugnot.
It was however left to Karl Benz and Gottlieb Damlier to produce the first vehicles powered by the internal combustion engine in 1885. It was then that the petrol engine was introduced, which made the car a practical and safe proposition. The cars in this period were more like the cars on our roads today. With cars came the era of speed.
The first ever land-speed record was established about a 100 years back, in 1898. Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat of France drove an electric car (in Acheres near Paris) at a speed of 39.24 miles per hour. This flagged off the era of ‘wheels racing’, which lasted till 1964, after which jet and rocket -propelled vehicles were allowed.Then onwards, it has been one big journey...on the roads.

From the singsong rhythm of the bullock cart to the jet-age, India has traveled a long way. An average Indian’s dream car may not be the design-savvy Mercedez or the stately limousine, but he sure can dream, and afford, the Maruti now.It was in 1898 that the first motorcar rode down India’s roads. In the next few years three Oldsmobiles were imported into the country, and within 10 years of the first car, there were several thousand vehicles, driven by the many Maharajas, Princes, Industrialists and Philanthropists in the country. From then till the First World War, about 4,000 cars were directly imported to India from foreign manufacturers. The growing demand for these cars established the inherent requirements of the Indian market that these merchants were quick to pounce upon. Anticipating the need for cars in India, General Motors set up, as early as in 1927, their own "assembly" in Mumbai. Within 10 years General Motors India Ltd. (as they were known then too) could churn out as many as 11,000 cars and trucks - Buicks, Chevrolets and Vauxhalls - per year.The Hindustan Motors (HM) was set up in 1942 and in 1944, Premier Autobackmobile (PAL) was established to manufacture automobiles in India. However, it was PAL who produced the first car in India in 1946, as HM concentrated on auto components and could produce their first car only in 1949.

Ambassador - the first car to be manufactured in India, has been ruling the Indian roads ever since its inception in 1948. Originally based on Morris Oxford (United Kingdom, 1948), the Ambassador has been undergoing a series of changes, adapting to customer expectations. With upgraded manufacturing facilities in Uttarpara, West Bengal, Hindustan Motors Limited is geared for production of a more contemporary version of the Ambassador, with features catering to the needs of the present generation. Ambassador, the only automobile to ply Indian roads for more than five decades now, has carved a special niche for itself in the passenger car segment. It's dependability, spaciousness and comfort factor have made it the most preferred car for generations of Indians. The Ambassador's time-tested, tough, accommodating and practical characteristics make it a truly Indianised car.It was left to another company, Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) to manufacture sturdier utility vehicles, namely the American Jeep.
In the 50s, the Government of India granted approval to only 7 car dealers to operate in India - HM, API, ALL, SMPIL, PAL, M&M and Telco.The protectionist policies continued to remain in place. The 60s witnessed the establishment of the two-three wheeler industry in India and in the 70s, things remained much the same.Since the 80s, the Indian car Industry has seen a major resurgence with the opening up of Indian shores to foreign manufacturers and collaborators.The 90s have become the melting point for the car industry in India. The consumer is king. He is being constantly wooed by both the Indian and foreign manufacturers.
Though sales had taken a dip in the first few months of 1999, it is back to boom time since 2000.