Reprieve for India's iconic car

Production of Ambassador car resumes after industrial dispute is settled.

    Until recently the Ambassador - designed in 1950s Britain - was India's favourite car [AP]

    The company had suspended work at the Ambassador plant in the  eastern state of West Bengal on April 11 following a month of union  unrest over pay and other issues.

      

    "Subsequent to the agreement signed yesterday [Wednesday] between the workers' Unions and HM Management, work resumed today at the Uttarpara plant of Hindustan Motors," the company said.

     

    The dispute had forced festivities to mark the half-centenary of the Ambassador - known in India as the automobile equivalent of a  workhorse for its ability to survive the worst road conditions - to be put on hold.

      

    The Ambassador's bulky design, based on the 1950s British-built Morris Oxford, has changed little from when it first rolled off the assembly line in 1957, although the engine is now more powerful.

     

    Ubiquitous

      

    For much of the history of independent India, when the economy was closed to imports, Indians joked that people could buy any car in India "as long as it was an Ambassador".

     

    But the vehicle, which held a stranglehold on the sector, now has just three per cent of the domestic car-buying market.

     

    Sales tumbled after economic liberalisation in the 1990s brought in sleek new models that made the plump contours of the Ambassador look dowdy. Now HM makes just 13,000 to 15,000 of the cars a year.

      

    But the Ambassador is still the first vehicle visitors see when they arrive at airport taxi stands, with taxi drivers being its most loyal fans, buying 65 per cent of the cars.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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