The automobile industry around the world has expanded by leaps and bounds, but the evolution of the Indian automobile industry has been such that it was quite surprising and occasionally fascinating to witness. Did you know – the first car that plied on Indian roads was in 1897, owned by Mr Crompton Greaves, and the first Indian to own a car in 1901 was Jamshedji Tata!
Before India gained independence from the British in 1947, the Indian automobile market was widely acknowledged for imported vehicles, and assembling duties of the manufactured cars was handled by General Motors.
But how much do we actually know about Car History in India and its origins? My guess would be, not quite so much. Therefore, on this independence day, let’s take a walk through history as we explore the evolution of the Indian automobile industry, all the way from its inception to its current status in the world market.
The First Car To Enter The Market
Characterized as a self-taught automotive expert, it was Mr K. A. B. Menon who established Aravind Automobiles in 1956 with the motive of building an Indian car from scratch in Kerala. The first Indian car to be manufactured on national soil was Menon’s Aravind ‘Baby’ Model 3 in 1966, a classic four-door sedan.
But because it didn’t get the patronage of the general masses and the prominent industrialists, soon after the release of the Aravind came Hindustan Motors’ Ambassador, which became the first locally manufactured car in India. Based on the Morris Oxford Series III, the Ambassador had British origins, but it was still considered a definitive Indian car.
In the 1980s, Hindustan Motors met its match in the form of a new participant, Maruti Udyog Limited. The auto industry’s evolution contributed quite a lot to the country’s economic growth, while also helping out the finance and insurance sectors. Over time, vehicular insurance was also set up and governed by the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. It ushered in compulsory insurance for all and any form of transportation driven on Indian roads.
Meanwhile, SUV’s started being manufactured by Mahindra and Mahindra, Bajaj, Standard Motors, etc. Cumbersome and medium commercial vehicles were made by seven manufacturers, including Ashok Motors, Simpsons and Co., Premier Motors, and more. Two-wheeler vehicles like scooters, motorcycles, or mopeds were manufactured by Bajaj Auto, Escorts Group, Royal Enfield, Automobiles Product of India, Ideal Jawa, etc.
Post Liberalization Period
Shortly after the liberalization period, carmakers who were previously not allowed to invest in the Indian market due to strict policies arrived in the country. Post liberalization, the alliance between Maruti and Suzuki was the first joint venture between an Indian and a foreign company. Slowly and steadily, economic reforms brought major international companies such as Hyundai and Honda, which expanded their bases to the country.
From 2000 to 2010, almost all major automotive companies expanded their presence in India by establishing manufacturing facilities in different parts of the country. During the same decade, the government introduced mandatory emission standards to reduce the pollution produced by vehicles. The updated guidelines were known as ‘Bharat Stage’ and came into force in the main cities since these standards were based on strict European standards.
Bharat Stage IV is implemented in 13 cities, including Delhi (NCR), Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune, and Surat, Kanpur, Lucknow, Solapur, and Agra while the rest of the nation is still under Bharat Stage III.
Progress Over The Years
Over the years, the automotive market in India has evolved by leaps and bounds, as almost all large companies are present in the country. India has become a center for car manufacturers installing their plants to manufacture vehicles destined for national and international markets.
To list some commendable feats of the Indian auto industry, it emerged as the fourth largest exporter of passenger cars behind Japan, South Korea, and Thailand in 2009. While in 2010, India emulated its performance from the previous year to become the third-largest car exporter.
In fact, the AMP 2026 envisions that by the end of the year 2026, the Indian automotive industry will become one of the world’s top three in terms of engineering, manufacture, and export of vehicles and auto components. It is further estimated that the automobile industry will grow in value to more than 12% of India’s GDP and generate more than 65 million jobs.
However, with the ups also come to the downs, and the current policy debate is now built around how greater resource efficiency can be accomplished and the need for more novel materials in light of the industry’s plans to manufacture electric vehicles in India.
Innovation in new product development lags and remains critical for the evolution of the Indian automobile industry and for India to achieve competitive superiority or at least maintain its low-cost advantage. Manufacturing technologies need to be upgraded continuously. Significant investments for developing new indigenous technologies that are green and compliant with recognized high-efficiency standards would help the Indian automobile industry move up the value chain.
Even traditional automobile servicing techniques need a boost, for maintaining the wellbeing of your car is always a top priority. But thanks to the expert team at Shell-Pitstop, the leading providers of car service in India, you can get novel solutions at affordable rates. So hop on the bandwagon and give your car the freedom of good service this Independence day!