This was the car that pretty much taught India to drive. With stricter emission norms coming into force in April 2010, the Maruti 800 that drove us to New India over the last 25 years, may now be sent to the garage forever.
A Maruti official told Hindustan Times on conditions of anonymity that Euro IV emission norms that come into effect in 13 cities in 2010 will force major changes in the 800, including fitting a new engine. But this will push the price of the car up.
Alongside, there has been a steady decline in sales that has led to talks of a ‘phase-out’ strategy. “We have tried a lot of combinations but keeping the cost down in a car like 800 is essential and that is the major challenge,” said the official on condition of anonymity.
“It is also an ageing brand and, as of now, it looks unviable to fit in a new Euro IV compliant engine and sell the car.” Maruti, however, denied any plans of a phase-out. The company insisted that the 800 will be in production as long as sales are robust.
“There are absolutely no plans of a phase-out. We still sell 70,000 units of the car in a year, which is more than most other cars in the country,” a spokesperson for the company said.
The company recently launched a new KB series engine that is Euro IV and Euro V compliant and will be fitted in the upcoming A star model. This engine will subsequently be fitted in all existing small cars like the Alto, the Wagon R and the Estilo. The 800, however, may not get it.
Indications of a phase-out have been in the air for quite a while now. In August 2008, Maruti Suzuki Managing Director Shinzo Nakanishi had said that a phase-out would depend on the market requirement, adding that there will be a “last day”.
Sales of the 800, a market leader from 1984 to 2004, have declined steadily since 2003-04. In 2007-08 sales slid by 12 per cent while in the first half of this fiscal, they went down by another 17 per cent.
In a continuation of the trend, sales of the car declined by 26.1 per cent to 3,307 units in October this year, from 4,477 units last year. Which means that after another 17 months, the iconic 800 and its owners will slowly but surely be disappearing from the roads of India.
© HT Media