What does it take to be the country’s largest manufacturer? What goes into making such cars that have been ruling the Indian roads from the past 39 years? Well, the only answer to these questions is Maruti Suzuki. This company has been the first choice of Indian customers for a very long time now. Let’s put some light on the chronology it has tread on to become India’s largest carmaker.
1981 – Maruti Udyog Ltd
India was regaining the glory after independence. People started to look out for ways to live an elegant life. But yet, no one was spending a lot on cars. Brands like Premier and Hindustan Motors were trying hard to gain customers to which they were a lot successful. But were they ready for the storm that was about to come?
Government of India, especially, Sanjay Gandhi is to be credited with the establishment of Maruti Udyog Limited in 1981.
1982 – Collaboration with Suzuki
In October 1982, Maruti Udyog limited merged with the Japenese automobile company, Suzuki. The same year, the company also set up a manufacturing unit at Gurgaon, Haryana. With the JV between Maruti and Suzuki, the company received the right to import 40,000 fully built Suzuki cars from Japan in the first two years, after which also the company was planning to use about 33% of indigenous products only.
1983 – Maruti 800
This is the car which flagged off the company’s dawn was the Maruti 800. It was an 800cc engine powered 5-door hatchback made by Maruti Suzuki which instantly became a hit in the market. 800 was so popular that if in the mid-1980s, someone was talking about Maruti, he surely was talking about the 800. It became the acronym for the company. But Maruti 800 was not the only car to be launched that year.
Every child’s fear, the kidnapping car of that era, Maruti Omni was also launched at that time powered by the same engine as that of the 800.
1985 – The Offroading King Launched
There’s no doubt that even without the mention of the car, you would have guessed the name. Maruti Suzuki Gypsy was launched in 1985. A 4WD offroading vehicle was launched and instantly became a hit, especially in the offroading arena. It was based on the Suzuki Jimny and was powered by a 1.0-litre engine.
1986 – Maruti Suzuki reaches a milestone
1,00,000th vehicle rolled out the factory of the company. Within 2 years, Maruti Suzuki was dominating the market. The same year, the company also launched a new generation of 800, which was the SS80 Alto hatchback known globally. In 1987, the company exported 500 cars to Hungary thus commencing the sales outside India, via export.
1989 – India’s first sedan launched
Maruti 1000, launched in 1989, was India’s first sedan which was powered by a 1.0-litre engine. It became a huge success due to its off-roading capabilities, though was not that popular as a family car.
Then in the next few years, Maruti Suzuki launched many cars. Here is the list of cars with the year they were launched in.
- Maruti Suzuki Zen – 1993
- Maruti Suzuki Esteem – 1994
- Wagon R and Baleno Sedan – 1999
- Alto – 2001
By the year 1994, Maruti Suzuki had sold 1 million cars in India. Maruti also opened a second plant which increased the annual capacity of the company from 1,00,000 to 2,00,000 units.
1998 – Company’s first diesel car
Zen D or the Zen Diesel was Maruti’s first diesel offering in India. It was powered by a 1.5-litre diesel engine.
2004 – Alto overtakes 800
Maruti Suzuki Alto became the highest selling car in India overtaking 800 after nearly two decades of ruling the arena. Alto stayed at the top for a straight 15 years after that, only to be dethroned by the Maruti Suzuki Dzire in 2019.
2007 – Maruti Suzuki SX4 launched
The premium looks and the stylish interiors made it an instant success story. SX4 had an amazing ride quality. It was powered by a 1.6-litre VVT DOHC petrol engine which could churn out 104hp of power and 145Nm of torque. But with the advent of diesel engines in the segment, SX4 started losing the monopoly in the market. In 2011, Maruti Suzuki tried to revive the SX4 by introducing a 1.3-litre DDis diesel engine which could produce 88hp of power and a torque of 200Nm. But by the time SX4 got this oil burner, it was too late. The sedan was discontinued in 2014. You might easily see one running on the roads at present.
Maruti Suzuki became an affordable car brand in India. People preferred Maruti cars over the others mainly due to the lower initial as well as maintenance cost. But the company decided to take a break and launch some luxury into the Indian market.
This is when the company decided to bring in the Suzuki Grand Vitara XL-7 via CBU route. This made the SUV very pricey as compared to the Tata and Mahindra SUVs and the company tasted failure at the hands of XL-7. It was silently taken off the markets.
Another such failure was the Suzuki Kizashi, which also met the same fate. It was also brought in through the same route. It was an ultra-luxury sedan which the customers were not able to ingest as it was being offered by Maruti. The added costs due to the import duty acted as the rains during a barbeque session and completely finished the era that could have been. Kizashi was also silently removed from the market.
2015 – NEXA
New Exclusive Automotive Experience or the NEXA platform was introduced by the company to launch premium cars in India. The first car to be sold through this channel was the S-Cross. Maruti Suzuki sells Baleno, XL-6, Ciaz and Ignis currently through this channel. S-Cross petrol is to be launched soon. Introducing a brand for premium cars was a wise choice as the company failed to attract customers through the normal channel. Would the premium luxury cars been sold as the normal ones, the company would have met the same fate as that of the Kizashi and other premium cars.
2016 – Company’s first compact SUV
Maruti Suzuki’s first-ever compact SUV was unveiled at the Auto Expo 2016. The car carried forward the name from the Grand Vitara and added a light wind to it, thus Vitara Brezza.
Initially, it was offered 1.3-Litre D13A four-cylinder turbodiesel engine which was capable of producing 89hp of power and a peak torque of 200Nm. The mill is mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. With the ARAI certified range of 24.3kmpl, Vitara Brezza became the best-in-segment car for the mileage. And, this was enough for the buyers to select it over the rivals. The starting price of ₹6.99lakhs just acted as the fuel for skyrocketing sales of the SUV.
The SUV became a hit as there was no direct competition in the arena. It recently was given a new facelift in 2020.
2020 – The BS6 Effect
With the BS6 emission norms taking place of the previous BS4 norms, the company had to discontinue all the diesel variants across its offerings. Thus all the cars across the line-up are currently being offered with petrol engine options only with CNG options too.
There seems to be no end to the popularity of the company although the safety of most of the cars from the manufacturer is questionable. A very few of its offerings were able to score over 3 stars at any NCAP. Is this how the company keeps the cost down, by keeping the safety at risk? What do you think about the question? Let us know in the comments section below.