Peugeot, in its umpteenth attempt at re-entering the Indian market has bought the Ambassador brand from Hindustan Motors. Does this mean that we’ll see a resurrection of the unforgettable Ambassador in a French avatar?
Many of us remember the erstwhile Ambassador – some fondly, some less so. A hallmark of the ‘Licence Raj,’ the Ambassador and the Premier Padmini were the two options available to those in our country who were prosperous enough to own a car. Needless to say, in an age of monopolies, they weren’t really path-breaking machines and tales exist of people on long journeys carrying a boot full of spares to deal with any eventuality. However, in an era of limited connectivity and public transport, the Ambassador was a symbol of many things – power, prosperity, luxury even, and certainly freedom from public transport. In fact, many of us learnt how to drive on an Ambassador – hence the rose tinted glasses.
However, history aside, sales of the Ambassador had been in rapid decline ever since the Maruti 800 entered the market many decades ago. At its peak, Hindustan Motors was producing 24,000 cars per year, but that declined to around 2,000 units more recently – mainly catering to the government sector – before production finally stopped in 2014. In an age of ever-changing technology, a car based on a 1950’s design and platform wasn’t really what one would call cutting edge.
Peugeot themselves have had a colourful history in the Indian market. First launched in the mid-90’s, as a joint venture with Premier Auto, the 309 sedan sold in India didn’t exactly make a major dent in the market. And, in a few years’ time, the company exited the Indian market. Now, in its latest push to enter what is probably one of the most exciting markets worldwide, Peugeot has bought over the Ambassador brand name and trademarks from Hindustan Motors. What they’re going to do with it is anyone’s guess, but the obvious question is whether we’ll see a resurrection of the dead.
In either case, the acquisition remains a curious one. While the brand name does have its fair share of history, it doesn’t exactly have an iconic Mini-esque heritage attached to it. At best, it still represents the corridors of power, and, at worst, it harks back to a restricted era. Nevertheless, for a carmaker with virtually no brand recall in the Indian market, buying an establish brand – even one that’s virtually been wiped off the map – could generate some consumer interest down the road.