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Tracing The History Of Tata Indica In India

It has been almost 3 years now since Tata pulled the plug on the production of Indica. At this point let us look back at this epochal car that was released in the supermini segment and why long ago, Indica was nothing short of unprecedented.

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Tata Motors

The Tata Motors of the present started out in 1945 as Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company. In the beginning and for a long time after then, TELCO was a manufacturer of commercial vehicles. But, with facilities in India and abroad, Tata Motors has come a long way since. From making trucks and buses, they have now graduated to manufacturing passenger cars, building equipment and military vehicles. They now hold 37% of the commercial automobile market.

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Tata Indica: Company’s first indigenous car

Tata Indica | Forgotten Hatchback In India
Tata Indica

For you to know, Indica was Tata’s first passenger hatch in the country. After huge anticipation, Tata Motors rolled out Indica in 1998. It was a day before new year’s eve when the car was finally launched in the market and it was met with over 1 lakh bookings. The 5-door hatchback came at a base price of ₹2.6 Lakhs.

When the first Indica was being developed, there were a lot of speculations surrounding the car. In an interview with the Businessworld magazine, Ratan Tata fondly described the expected Indica to have the mileage of a diesel car and an interior as big as the Hindustan Ambassador. Tata Indica turned out to be everything the former chairman claimed it would be. Additionally, it provided features like air-conditioning, which believe it or not was upmarket back then.

This passenger car stood out among the foreign ones that came into the country. Unlike the one-size-fits-all cars from the global bigwigs, Indica felt like it was custom-made for the country.

Expatriate design and a native engine

Tata Indica | India's first indigenously developed passenger car

It was in the Auto Expo of 1998 when the car was showcased for the first time. Tata Indica caught the eye for of it had an edgy design. Even though its engine was manufactured in-house, the car body was styled by the Italian design team I.DE.A. Institute. All this made the indigenous automobile look like a seasoned car from someone who knew exactly what they were doing.

Indica looked and felt miles ahead of Fiat Uno, Maruti 800 and Maruti Zen, its competitors back then. Tata Indica also had better storage compartments than your Maruti 800. Also, the interiors had a functional design along with great finishing.

Bumps on the road

However, the erstwhile, truck maker Tata struggled to manufacture the perfect passenger car the Indian wants. Tata did not have the required skill set needed in this segment and because of this, the company fell behind. The manufacturer suffered since they weren’t able to match the demand with supply. Tata Indica encountered problems and lacked the sophistication people expected.

Soon with family cars like Santro and Maruti WagonR, Indica faced severe competition. Things did not improve with Hyundai launching i10 at the turn of the century. Santro and WagonR had a lot more to offer than Tata Indica. Indica quickly found itself standing on shifting sands.

Tata Indica V2

The facelift Indica V2 was soon launched to fix the flaws of the earlier model. And fix they did. This affordable car was indeed ‘More Car per Car’, which was what Tata had promised. Tata Indica V2 shortly became a bestseller. Even though the car had to face tough competition from Maruti with Alto and WagonR, the Indica V2 persisted.

Indica V2 soon phased out the Ambassador in the taxi car segment. This boosted the sales of the V2. The car is popular among the taxi drivers of the nation even today.

The diesel variant of Indica V2 had little to no competition then. The heavier, spacious car had great mileage along with good ride quality. V2 was simply worth every penny you spent.

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The second generation

On the aluminium anniversary of the car in 2008, Tata Motors kicked off the second generation, Indica Vista. This car was masterminded as an affordable yet comfortable family car. Calling it ‘the sedan class’, Tata promised the buyers of this hatchback, the luxury of a sedan. Vista had slick alloy wheels and unique grill garnishes. The car also offered one the choice between the Quadrajet diesel engine and the Safire Petrol.

Vista was produced on a platform different from the one the first generation Indica was built on. Tata designed Vista in the hopes of meeting global standards in terms of safety and performance. They also developed a version of the car, with the steering wheel on the right. The company did all this keeping importing to the Western world in mind.

The Challenges 

Tata Indica Vista, however, could not taste the success enjoyed by the first Indica. And even over time, Vista did not stand a chance against its competitors. The taxi-cab image associated with Indica became its Achilles heel. Unlike the Tata cars of the present day, Indica Vista did not do great in the crash test either. The car received a sad 3-star rating.

However, Tata Nexon developed in 2017, on the same Indica platform (X1) as Vista, became a major success. Nexon became the first Indian car to get a 5-star rating on NCAP, more or less equating the brand name with safety.

Tata Nexon's Crash Test Rating at the Global NCAP
Tata Nexon’s Crash Test Rating at the Global NCAP

The Finale

Tata Motors

With colossal competition and dwindling sales, in April 2018, the car company put an end to the Indica. Since people’s interest in old model cars like Indica had waned over time discontinuing Indica was the inevitable step. Even though the car is no longer in production Tata is committed to the existing patrons and strives to provide the service they deserve.

Tata Indica was in production for 20 years, from 1998 to 2018. The predicament of the car was that it simply could not catch up with the changing times. With the bars getting higher and higher, Indica tried its best but got left behind. However, the car paved the way for much bigger hits like the Tata Altroz.

Aftermath of Indica

Tata cars of the present have come a long way from its first passenger vehicle, Indica. The safer, more comfortable Tata cars of the day, haven’t compromised on the interior room though. These affordable cars offer the big Indian families the space that they desperately need.

Tata is looking to follow this up with cars that are even better, offering more generous creature comforts and performance than Indica ever could. And of course, they aren’t compromising on safety. The Indica platform and its revamped adaptations issued many Tata cars. Cars like the Indigo, Zest, Tiago and Nexon are on the Indian roads thanks to the Indica platform.

The Tata Nexon and Why It Is Better Than The Maruti Brezza
The Tata Nexon

Read More? Here you go? Tata Indica | India’s first indigenously developed passenger car

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Read: 10 Forgotten Hatchbacks In India | Tata Indica to Fiat Uno

Kavitha Nambiar
Foodie. Always up for a challenge. Enjoys reading and writing.


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