Pretty much out of the blue, Peugeot announced its purchase of the Ambassador brand in February. Ambassador? A car that for half a century refused to die could now be coming back to life. Or is it? In 2011, a few months after its comeback announcement, a severe financial crunch put paid to Peugeot’s India plans, but the French carmaker was adamant this was only a minor interruption and not a full stop to its Indian ambitions. So the return announcement this January with the CK Birla Group wasn’t totally unexpected. But an Ambassador? Peugeot did use it in an old 206 advertisement; but this, of course, is just an amusing coincidence.
I love the Indica, I really do. Back in college I tried to get my Dad to buy one, but failed. But today it’s a product that has run its course and is now well past its prime. The Indica ushered Tata into the passenger car segment and paved the way for future passenger vehicles, but now it’s time to let go and move on.
Dear Carlos (or should I say Ghosn San),
What follows is an excerpt from what our colleagues at Autocar UK wrote about the 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine-equipped Suzuki Baleno. "The Boosterjet is a little cracker. It revs freely and pulls strongly from 2,000rpm, buzzing away pleasantly with an ever-present triple-cylinder rasp. Stretch it beyond 5,000rpm and it gets a little raucous but not enough to stop the enjoyment of giving it a darn good thrashing." Great, right? I, for one, am itching to get behind the wheel of the upcoming Baleno RS that will serve as the launch vehicle for Suzuki’s new turbocharged petrol engine in India. This BoosterJet engine is a 998cc, three-cylinder unit that, in international markets, makes 111hp and 170Nm. I mention international markets because leaked information of the Indian car put the figures at 102hp and 150Nm. A bummer, yes, but it still betters the standard Baleno petrol’s 84hp and 115Nm. But here are the facts of real interest. Turbocharging allows the RS’ engine make max torque from 1,700-4,500rpm while the naturally aspirated engine’s produces max pulling power only at 4,000rpm. A strong mid-range is what our colleagues liked about the BoosterJet engine and the strong mid-range is what I’m most looking forward to.
Will they? Won’t they? The saga of Peugeot’s re-entry into India has been ongoing for years now. But at long last the French carmaker seems ready and willing to take the plunge. Peugeot has just entered into a joint venture with India’s CK Birla Group for the assembly and distribution of its cars, and another one for the production of powertrains. With a planned manufacturing capacity of 1,00,000 vehicles per annum at the proposed plant in Tamil Nadu, Peugeot means business this time. The first Peugeots for India will roll out in 2020.
It is often debated that marketing sells the first car and service sells the rest, and while that debate may never quite settle down in the automotive board rooms, the important ‘sales’ role that aftersales plays is quite clear. Despite this seemingly obvious piece of knowledge, it’s shocking to see how many brands get the all-important service vertical so wrong.
Toyota and Suzuki want to get into bed together. The reasons stated are to explore the possibilities of working together in areas of environment, safety, IT and regular automobile R&D. This has many puzzled, as on the face of it, the two Japanese carmakers don’t seem to be very compatible. Toyota, the world’s number 1 manufacturer, has very little to gain from this partnership, as it possesses technology and products across various segments, including small cars with Daihatsu, a company it recently bought out fully. So what in the world brought them together?
Just two days before Jeep made its long-overdue foray onto India’s challenging terrain, I found myself at the wheel of a Grand Cherokee Summit Diesel on some literal challenging terrain. There I was, tearing down an absolutely ruined country track that looked like it had been carpet-bombed back into the Jurassic Age by the monsoons. Craters that would give a geologist wet dreams, whose treachery was made just that bit more mysterious by the water that filled them. The perfect environ for something with the iconic seven-slat grille on its nose, then. The Jeep shone. It ploughed through without so much as a creak, rattle or whimper, and it felt like it could take a lot more. The criticisms I had earlier – poor interior plastics, heavy steering, clunky ride, ageing tech – all suddenly vaporised. This thing was a tank, and this is the battlefield it was made to conquer! I started to see the appeal now – this was not something that could merely be judged by the sum of its parts. Much of the draw is intangible, like the feeling of invincibility it gives you. A feeling that was rudely interrupted by one of my rather smitten passengers, inquiring about how much this Rolling Rambo costs. “Well...” I started, estimating prices in my head.
Back in 2011, a select contingency of Indian automotive journalists proudly watched the season’s opening motorcycle World Championship races unfold at Qatar. Giant Indian company Mahindra & Mahindra had stuck its neck way out over the two-wheeled line by any yardstick; for earning a name selling tractors, jeeps, SUVs and commercial vehicles was one thing, and setting foot in this arena quite another.
You know you’re at some place special when you are breathing the same air (and tyre smoke) as legends like John Surtees, Stirling Moss and Alain Prost. When minutes after an Audi Sport Quattro tears past you comes the Rothmans-liveried Porsche 956 that dominated Le Mans from 1982-84. And where a Mercedes-Benz W125 from 1937 shares the limelight with Sebastian Vettel’s 2011 championship-winning Red Bull RB7.
2016 Renault Kwid long term review, final report
2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo Executive review, test drive
2017 BMW 5-series India review, test drive
Maruti Vitara Brezza long term review, second report
2017 Tata Tigor review, test drive
Issue: 212 | Autocar India: April 2017
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