25 years of India’s Model T

25 years of India’s Model T

In late 1983, Harpal Singh got something that was only a dream for millions of Indians: an affordable car.

As Maruti 800 celebrates its 25th anniversary this month, the contrast with pioneers of the automobile industry in Detroit, US, cannot be more stark: The big three, General Motors, Chrysler and Ford, are being bailed out, while in India the drop in sales, by any estimate, is part of the turn in the business cycle and nothing more.

What accounts for the difference? Is the Indian consumer more exacting than his US counterpart? Is innovation?a part of the story?

Perhaps it’s a mix of many factors. In India, the income distribution of the population is such that there is a constant demand for smaller cars with better mileage. The automotive industry has risen to that challenge. The Tata Nano is an example.

Developments in Detroit should be a sobering thought. More than anything else, the lack of a technological edge has done Motown in. So long as our car makers can anticipate the technology consumers want, our cars will continue to be desired.