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The Ambassador gears up for rejuvenation

November 04, 2013 17:52 IST

The Ambassador gears up for rejuvenation

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Probal Bosak

INCEPTION

Ambassador, the oldest face of India's automobile industry was born in 1948 at Hindustan Motor's (HM) Uttarpara plant in Hooghly district of West Bengal.

Ever since, the Ambassador, popularly known as Amby, has been the flagship product of the C K Birla group company.

However, the five-seater Amby owes its current look and styling to the British Morris Oxford III.

While the UK-based auto firm discontinued the model many decades ago, HM has retained the first generation styling.

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The image is for representation purpose only


Photographs: Courtesy, DC Designs

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The Ambassador gears up for rejuvenation

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THEN AND NOW

Ambassador was in every sense of the term the "wheels of India" as one of its early advertisement described claimed.

Once the status symbol of India's affluent class, it was widely popular for both personal and institutional use.

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Photographs: Reuters
Tags: India

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Its popularity, albeit muted, had continued till the nineties. So much was its institutional use, that Amby almost became synomymous with sarkari (government) car.

No wonder then, veteran politician Pranab Mukherjee after assuming the office of President of India, spoke of his liking for the car before stepping into the custom-built presidential stretch limousine from Mercedes Benz S600 (W221) Pullman Guard.

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Photographs: IndianAtuosBlog

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But as India became a hotspot for the global automobile industry, Amby began to lose its appeal. The number of units sold had slid to 3,390 last year, from around 18,000 in 1995.

Hurt by technology constraints, it is the taxi segment which has currently become the raison d'etre of the iconic car and constitutes about half of its sales.

Kolkata's yellow cabs account for about 75 per cent of total Ambassador taxis in the country. However, HM managing director Uttam Bose believes the car is on its way to revival after the launch of the BS IV version.

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Photographs: IndianAtuosBlog

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The Ambassador was recently ranked as the as the best taxi in the world by popular auto show Top Gear, aired on BBC. It beat the likes of the German E-Class Mercedes Benz, Mexican Volkswagen Beetle, Russian stretch limousine and the famous London black cab.

The company is making all efforts to market this crown of the world's best taxi as evident from the company's website.

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Photographs: Aravind Sivaraj/Wikimedia Commons

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NAMES BEHIND THE BRAND

While it was BM Birla who was the founder of HM that introduced Ambassador, it has been mostly associated with C K Birla, chairman of the group which controls the firm.

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Photographs: Redsimon/Wikimedia Commons

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REINVENTED?

The current management under Bose has taken up an ambitious project to introduce a smaller version of the Ambassador car by early next fiscal to attract the new-age customer.

However, Bose made it a point to say that the brand name Ambassador will be retained, while there may or may not be a sub-brand for the new version.

The column, 50&Counting, will chronicle brands which have survived for 50 years and more in India. We decipher their good times and bad times.


Photographs: Tatiraju.rishabh/Wikimedia Commons
Tags: Bose , India

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