New Delhi: Hyundai Motor India Ltd has phased out its iconic model Santro hatchback after 16 years on Indian roads, two people familiar with the development said.

Santro’s production was stopped at the end of December as the South Korean manufacturer is looking to create more capacity for its hot-selling premium hatchback Elite i20.

“There was no need to discontinue it. It was a depreciated brand and a cash cow for Hyundai. But we had to create capacity for the Elite i20 and we were left with no choice as Santro, Eon and Elite i20 were assembled on the same line," said one of the two people. Both declined to be named.

Rakesh Srivastava, senior vice-president (sales and marketing), declined to comment.

The Economic Times newspaper on 28 october first reported that production of Santro will be stopped.

To be sure, Hyundai has an annual installed production capacity of 680,000 units at its Sriperumbudur factory near Chennai. During the first nine months to December this fiscal, Hyundai sold 309,000 units, up 11.24% over a year-ago period. Its exports declined 16.32% to 160,000 units. Sales of India’s passenger vehicle industry grew 3.67% to 1.89 million while exports were up 6.21% to 482,000.

Santro used to sell 2,000-2,500 units a month until it was discontinued, while Elite i20 sells around 10,000 units a month.

Firms such as Ford India Pvt. Ltd, Honda Cars India Ltd and General Motors India Pvt. Ltd entered India around the same time as Hyundai, but it was the korean manufacturer that posed a threat to market leader Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.

Hyundai’s first Indian car, the Santro, was introduced in 1998 and its tall-boy stance was well-appreciated. It provided fierce competition to the Maruti Zen and gave the launch platform for Hyundai in India’s small car market, which was then dominated by Maruti. Maruti came up with the Wagon R in 1999 to counter the Santro in 1999.

Today, Hyundai is India’s second-largest car maker and the country’s largest car exporter. It commands 22% market share in India’s passenger car market.

“If Maruti 800 gave wings to the dreams of a burgeoning middle class in an economy that was slowly opening up to the world, Santro further widened the scope for newer and different car models to enter India," said Deepesh Rathore, director of consultancy firm Emerging Markets Automotive Advisors.

Maruti 800 was produced for the last time on 18 January last year by Maruti Suzuki India.

“In the small car market, it was the one which survived the competition. Later, it also flourished as a competitor to Wagon R," said Pradeep Saxena, executive director, TNS Automotive.

The other small car was Daewoo Matiz.

“It was a great brand. For a long time, Hyundai got represented by Santro. It was the stylish car among the small cars back then. Its power steering variant revolutionized the segment," said Saxena.

However, over the years, sales of Santro suffered with introduction of stronger models by Hyundai such as i10 and Eon.

Futuristic design and advanced engines in these cars made Santro look ubiquitous on the road.

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