Manufacturing News

Top Gear’s ‘best taxi in the world’ to cease production

Originally based on the Morris Oxford, the Ambassador has been manufactured by Hindustan Motors in India since 1948.

The car manufactuer has announced that it will suspend production at its plant in West Bengal. Few see it returning to Indian roads, as more efficient, modern cars have taken over the market.

This car ruled Indian roads for the first 40 years, becoming a symbol of power and influence. By the end of the 1970s, it had a market share of 75 percent.

The entry of Suzuki though a local joint venture with Maruti, changed all that and by 1992, Ambassador's share dropped to 20 percent.

Lack of investment, a militant workforce, an ageing plant and lack of interest and vision by the owners are cited as resons for the demise of this car.

In teh 1990s, Hindustan Modors enterd into a joint venture withGeneral Motors to manufacture and sell Opel vehicles. There was also a collaboration with Mitsubishi Motors to manufacture the Lancer. But none of these ventures took hold.

In a statement, Hindustan Motors blamed the shutdown on "worsening conditions at its Uttarpara plant which include very low productivity, growing indiscipline, critical shortage of funds, lack of demand for its core product the Ambassador and large accumulation of liabilities".

Only 2,200 Ambassadors were sold in 2013-14; a small fraction of the 1.8 million passenger cars sold in India.

In a show, which was aired on the BBC last year, Top Gear organized a world taxi shootout in which Ambassador emerged a winner, beating competitors from all over the globe.

The Top Gear team's verdict? "If performance is getting to your destination at some point of time, yeah, this is quite a performer."

As reported in The Economic Times, Nida Najar notes: "Drivers complain that pedals break off after a few thousand miles, that the air-conditioners malfunction. Some use turmeric to stop up holes in the radiator; anything to avoid servicing with expensive and increasingly rare parts. Many carry water bottles to cool off radiators that frequently overheat."

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