The maker of India’s iconic Ambassador taxi, Hindustan Motors Ltd., has halted production of car at the Uttarpara plant near Kolkata, claiming lack of demand and lack of funds.
Is it the end of the road for the Ambassador, for six decades the choice of Indian officials and taxi drivers? The car, which was essentially unchanged for 60 years, was modeled on Britain’s Morris Oxford. It was once the first car to be made in India and it was a bit of a status symbol. In the ’80’s it began losing ground to the low-priced Maruti Suzuki 800 hatchback and was unable to hold its own against more contemporary foreign imports. Hindustan Motors blamed a dwindling demand, a lack of funds, low productivity, and a growing lack of discipline in the plant, which also produces the Winner, a light commercial vehicle. In a market of 1.8 million cars Hindustan sold only 2.200 Ambassadors ($ 8.800 each). Last year, the BBC Top Gear TV show named it the ‘World’s Best Taxi’ after a race against a 1970 VW Beetle, a Mercedes E-class, an 1997 LTI Fairway black cab, a stretched Lincoln Town Car, a New York yellow Ford Crown Victoria, a South-African Toyota Hi-Ace minivan and the Ambassador. The Ambassador won the chaotic race.