Cars: From Maruti 800 to the BMW MINI
In section one of our 32nd anniversary special, we look back at the momentous occasions and events that have given shape to the Mumbai we know today
1983: Maruti 800 comes to Mumbai
Maruti Udyog’s first car, the Maruti 800, drives down the roads of Delhi and Mumbai in December 1983. Harpal Singh becomes the owner of the first Maruti car, takes key from PM Indira Gandhi. Mumbai, too, gets its first lot of Maruti cars. The Ambassador, Fiat and Premier’s dominance on Indian roads is about to end.
1991: Tata Motors launches Sierra
Tata Motors, known for building the most versatile and sturdy trucks, brings out its first passenger vehicle -- the Tata Sierra in May 1991. Three years later, the iconic Tata Sumo is launched. A joint venture agreement is also signed with Daimler Benz -- Mercedes Benz to manufacture Mercedes Benz passenger cars in India.
2010: Club Torque is founded in Mumbai
In January 2010, Club Torque is born in Mumbai -- the first-of-its-kind club where members can hire the supercars throughout the year. Their list of supercars include the Ferrari F-430, the Merc E-Cabriolet, the BMW z4, the Audi R8 and the Porche 911. The club insures, stores and maintains all the cars. A member is even allocated points which can be traded for driving time in the cars throughout the membership year.
2012: BMW MINI in showrooms
German automobile giant BMW launches its first MINI showroom in India in April 2012. The showroom, opened in Mumbai has the iconic small car BMW MINI showcased and sold. Most luxury car firms now have exclusive showrooms in the city including Audi, Mercedes, Bentley and others.
Then & Now
Deepak Kapadia, former-president WIAA and member of the managing committee
‘Car craze hit city 30 years ago’
So much has changed in the world of automobiles in the past three decades that it is hard to put it in a few words. Maruti Udyog Limited brought about the first auto revolution in contemporary India. Till the early 1980s, people had to wait for almost a year to get a Fiat or an Ambassador they had ordered. Maruti offered cars for Rs 50,000 and also ensured quick delivery. Suddenly, many Mumbaiites had cars. Soon Hyundai, Honda and the others followed suit.
The biggest change however, to me, is that production of automobiles has gone up because of growing demand. Till the 1980s, it was a seller’s market because cars were expensive and loans were not easily available. Now it’s a buyer’s market as people can easily get finance from banks. Even a person earning Rs 30,000 per month can buy car in India.
Sadly the auto revolution has had its flip side too. Rise in vehicular traffic has led to many troubles. Every day, we see 300 new cars on Mumbai’s roads and this has led to heavy traffic across the city. Vehicular pollution is a big issue too. In the 1980s the length/breadth of the city was around 1,900 sq km and today it is 1,940 sq km. So the city has expanded by just 30-40 sq km in the last 30 years whereas there has been a hundred-fold growth in the number of cars.
Yet some things haven’t changed. The demand for small cars for example, will continue to rise in years to come. They have always been popular in India because a majority of buyers look at mileage, depreciation, maintenance cost and cost of parts. Although bigger cars have found a space in the present market, rising costs will once again make us opt for small cars.
I noticed SUNDAY MiD DAY around 1990, as a reader in Surat. It had been given shape and definition by Nikhil Lakshman, the paper’s finest editor. He turned what was essentially a city newspaper into a national weekly.
He did this by introducing columnists -- Shobhaa De and Malavika Sanghvi come to mind immediately -- who were at that time unique for not writing the sort of rubbish on politics that most weekly papers and magazines from Delhi carried.
Lakshman’s was a sparkling, opinion-led, people-centred strategy that gave SMD (as insiders call it) a projection disproportionate to its reach.
By the time I came to the paper (six years between the beginning of 2000 and the end of 2005), this Lakshman formula was copied widely by others. And I wasn’t able to think up something new of that quality.
Aakar Patel was Group Editor-in-Chief , MiD DAY from 2000 to 2005