Maruti 800, the iconic car, which had revolutionised the way Indians travelled on road, has walked into history. The company has stopped its production at its plants in India. The first car ever owned by many Indians was first manufactured in 1983 and more than 24 lakh were sold all these years.
The decision to phase out the Maruti 800 was taken in 2010 to meet new auto emission standards to check pollution on Indian roads. But the spare parts will be available for the next 8-10 years. Over the years, the no-frills car has been eclipsed by newer and fancier models. The car, which cost Re. 50,000 ($803) at launch in 1983, is now priced at Re. 2,35,000.
In 1981, before Maruti started its journey, Indian drivers had only two options if they wanted to buy a locally made car. Premier Autos produced cars with help from Fiat, while Hindustan Motors made the bulky Ambassador. The then PM Indira Gandhi permitted Japan's Suzuki to have a stake in Maruti Udyog - an unprecedented move at a time when the Indian economy was largely closed. Suzuki's stake has since grown from 26 % to over 50% now. Since the Maruti 800, India's car revolution has gathered pace, with total car sales at close to 20 lakh cars a year.
India is likley to become the world's third-largest car market by 2020. The policy of liberalisation has spawned a middle class with higher disposable incomes. The Indian middle class is being wooed by foreign car companies in India to propel their global sales.