2020 Auto News Auto Sales Indian automobiles

Ambassador, Maruti 800, Tata Indica, and more: Indian cars that changed automobile world


  • Ambassador remained in production from 1957 to 2014
  • Maruti 800 was India’s first mass-oriented car
  • Tata Indica was India’s first fully indigenous car

India has emerged as one of the largest car markets in the world over the last 73 years. But it wasn’t until Maruti Udyog started operations and pioneered the mass-market car segment in the country. But Maruti 800 wasn’t the only Indian car that changed the course of the Indian automobile world and even impacted the global car industry. These include cars from companies like Hindustan Motors, Tata Motors, and Mahindra. Let’s quickly take a look at five Indian cars that changed the automobile world.

1. Hindustan Ambassador

Hindustan Motors manufactured the first car in India in 1946. It was christened Hindustan 10 and was based on Morris Oxford. But then it launched Ambassador in 1957 (based on Morris Oxford III) and took over the Indian automotive market. It was fondly called the “king of India roads” owing to its rugged nature and a spacious cabin, making it ideal as a chauffeur-driven vehicle. It became a status symbol and was used by politicians and high-ranking government officials. It remained in production till 2014 after which the company pulled the plug, marking the end of an era.

2. Maruti 800

Maruti 800 is undoubtedly the most iconic hatchback in the Indian automobile industry. It was introduced in 1983 when the Hindustan Ambassador was ruling the roads. However, Maruti 800 changed the game for the automotive industry in India as soon as it stepped out. It was launched during a grand event where the then prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, handed over the keys of first Maruti 800 to its first owner. The car and the company — Maruti Udyog — gave rise to the mass market segment in India, thereby changing the course of the automobile sector. Maruti 800 remained on sale for a very long time and then passed the baton to Alto 800.

3. Tata Indica

Tata Motors took the country by storm when it launched the first fully indigenous car in India — Indica — in 1999. This revolutionary car marked Tata Motors’ entry in the passenger vehicle segment here and was also the only small car for a very long time to be available with a diesel engine. The initial few years were difficult for Indica as it was plagued with reliability and performance issues. The company kept fixing these by introducing several changes to Indica and even spawned a sedan — Indigo — based on Indica. 

4. Reva

Maini Reva was the first electric car in India and was launched in 2001, at a time when electric mobility was at a nascent stage on a global level. It was designed and produced by Chetan Maini, Chairman of the Reva Electric Car Company (RECC) in Bangalore. This innovative electric car didn’t do well in the Indian market because of its seating capacity, compact size, high cost, and a lack of charging infrastructure. However, it was India’s first electric car and that makes it quite special. Reva was later on sold by Mahindra as E20.

5. Tata Nano

Tata Motors introduced Tata Nano with the intention of producing the world’s cheapest car. It was launched in 2008 and in later years got the title of “People’s Car”. It performed well in the automobile market, thanks to its easy price tag of ₹1 lakh (although only for limited models). Tata Nano became especially famous among Indian army officers but not so much in general. Tata even introduced the option of an automatic transmission with Nano but had to pull the plug on it last year when the mandatory safety norms came into effect. Nonetheless, it encouraged other carmakers to venture into the entry-level segment in India.

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