Ambassador,the iconic Indian car brand that till less than a decade ago carried both the Prime Minister and the common man, is being sold to French car maker Peugeot.
The Hindustan Ambassador is based on the Morris Oxford series III model,was an automobile manufactured by Hindustan Motors of India. It was in production the company’s Uttarpara plant in West Bengal from 1958 to 2014 ,and was once a status symbol.
For more than half a century, the Ambassador was the most recognized car of the country becoming the stately carriage of the prime minister and cab-drivers alike. B M Birla, grandfather of C K Birla made the now-defunct Hindustan Motors the country’s first indigenous automobile company.
Steering mounted gear lever, sun shield over the front windscreen, flat bench-type rear seats, a curvy ‘dicky’ or boot, chrome outlined front round headlamps and an Indian touch of a three-blade mini fan made the Ambassador stand out from the rest.
Its robust masculine body, spacious and comfortable interiors, ease of serviceability and its ability to take on the demanding roads of India’s hinterlands, made the “Amby” a huge hit with the large Indian families.
Stricter emission norms kicking in, invasion of modern foreign brands and the general inability of the cash-strapped promoters to pump in investments to update the car and adapt to changing consumer needs led to Amby’s demise.
In mid of 2014 the last of the Ambassadors rolled out of the Uttarpara plant in West Bengal marking an end to the 66 year-long production run, the longest in the country for any model.
The iconic brand Ambassador has changed hands, C.K. Birla group, owners of Hindustan Motor selling it to European auto major Peugeot for Rs 80 crore. Interestingly, Peugeot is gearing up to foray into the Indian car market and is will use Hindustan Motors’ existing manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu.
“Hindustan Motors has executed an agreement with Peugeot SA for the sale of the Ambassador brand, including the trademarks, for a consideration of Rs 80 crore,” Hindustan Motors today said in a regulatory filing.
The loss of something so quintessentially Indian to a French company is a hard swallow for many people. Many have expressed sadness and indignation over social media about why the iconic brand could not have been retained and saved by an Indian company, especially when it went for a laughable price of Rs 80 crore.
While there are no details shared by Peugeot at this point about its vision ahead for the Ambassador, it is however expected that the French car maker will attempt to revive the legendary brand even as it itself makes yet another attempt to crack the Indian market.
Peugeot has long been keen to get a foothold in India and was one of the first foreign car makers to enter the country in the mid-1990s when the economy first was liberalised.
Late last month Peugeot and CK Birla Group unveiled joint plans of building cars and powertrains in India with an initial investment of Euro 100 million (Rs 730 crore). The Indian Group’s Chennai-based plant which makes the Mitsubishi Pajero will be used to make Peugeot’s models.
The CK Birla group is better known for the now discontinued iconic Ambassador car that was manufactured by group firm Hindustan Motors.It has presence in technology automotive, home and building, healthcare and education.