By on February 16, 2017

Hindustan Ambassador Nova (1990)

Peugeot seems to be on a roll. PSA Group, formerly known as PSA Peugeot Citroën, announced a new five-year strategy last year after its bailout by the French government. This week we’ve seen some big movement on a potential purchase of Opel and Vauxhall from General Motors. The news was upsetting at Opel’s headquarters in Rüsselsheim, Germany, and the rumblings were loud enough to warrant a personal visit from GM CEO Mary Barra.

In lesser reported news, however, Peugeot’s net has already been cast over a storied Indian nameplate — the Hindustan Ambassador.

The Associated Press reported on Monday (via CNBC) that Peugeot SA purchased the Hindustan Ambassador brand from its maker, Hindustan Motors. The owners of Hindustan Motors detailed over the weekend that the agreement had been finalized, and Peugeot had paid $12,000,000 USD for the brand. A short history lesson is in order.

Originally based on the Morris Oxford series III, the Ambassador was produced in India from 1958 through 2014. Considered the luxury car in India and the first car to be produced there, the Ambassador held a monopoly on the passenger car market until the mid-1980s, when outside competitors were allowed into the country.

Notably, Maruti Suzuki started offering the low-priced 800 hatchback starting in 1983. By the mid-1990s, economic policy reforms allowed manufacturers from around the world to start their own operations in India, offering much more modern designs. The Ambassador could not compete, and dwindled in desirability and status until its demise in 2014.

According to Indian publication Business StandardHindustan Motors needed to sell the Ambassador brand in order to shore up debts and pay employees.

[Image: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)]

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23 Comments on “Flush With Bailout Money, Peugeot Purchases Legendary Hindustan Ambassador...”


  • avatar
    Tstag

    Maybe the could rebadge Vauxhall’s as Ambassadors given the British connection?

  • avatar
    slavuta

    french cars are funny

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    “Five-year plan”? Wonderful, comrade!

    Why did they spend money on this? Sounds like this falls into the “spending like a drunken sailor” category.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      They spent $12 million just for the name, but it has a luxury reputation in India. They could use the Citroën C4 sedan as a luxury model, though they would have to convert it to RHD. If they bought Vauxhall/Opel, they could use the Vauxhall RHD Astra sedan, but that woulld be pretty expensive to import to India, even as a luxury car. The big question is where they plan to build the new “Ambassador”.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      Maybe it’s like Star Trek’s original 5 year mission, which was cut short, then rebooted as movies, and rebooted as serveral successful new series, then rebooted yet again as prequels with J.J. Abrams.

      50 years of (relative) success starting just how PSA is starting: with a 5 year mission, to seek out old ailing brands that belong to countries we’re fremenies with, to buy them and to boldly make profits where no one has been able to do so before!*

      Recently, that is.

      Special Guest Stars:
      Mary Barra as “Counselor Troi”
      Carlos Ghosen as “Khan”
      Sergio Marchionne as “man in sweater”

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    I am not sure where this luxury notion is coming from. I certainly did not get that vibe that Indians thought the Amby was a luxury car when I lived there. It was more like the car your old uncle drove where as everyone else has moved on to Japanese and Korean makes.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      Those statements about luxury are past tense. Was.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        May Be. But as Lincoln is finding out with the Continental, some names have connotations that don’t go away, they remain dormant, ready to blossom into new sales and net profits.

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          Excellent example Lorenzo.

          A fine retort to those who also claim the Bronco name could never possibly have the recognition of the legendary Wrangler.

          Real off-road guys see modded Broncos of all generations on the trail all the time. The first gens are the most iconic, but the name over all its generations represented a true off-road capable vehicle with a removable top.

          It’s not like calling it the “Ranger Sport Trac” or something could possibly have a better impact than the name Bronco. Why do you think there are so many fans and dedicated sites and countless renderings, insurmountable speculation, ideas, hopes, and predictions. Clearly, the name has value.

          It worked for Camaro. If GM launched a Holden coupe here as a bland-as-W-body Impala’s-last-gen-looking car named the Chevy Lumina Z34, do you think it would be competing head on with the Mustang? Would it have the fan base? The 6 cyl/automatic college girl buyers who love the name and style, who’s purchases pave the way for the bad ass versions? But the LEGENDARY Mustang couldn’t be touched! Why bother? LOL

          What if the LX cars (300, Charger, Challenger) were named Dynasty, Vision or Intrepid, maybe even Concorde, all based on the last-gen Galant. A FWD stretched Sebring flying turd. Yep, they’d be doin pretty awesome right about now with that car, huh?

          But Ford had the big RWD sedan market dominated! these folks might say. Nothing could touch it!

          Well, something did, and kicked its ass (sales wise, the merits of both cars leave overall judgement in the eye of the beholder). Nostalgic name and styling, unapologetically American badass (born in Canada, German step dad) attitudes with classic big sedan formula: RWD, 6 or 8 cylinder power, sexy sporty/hot rod versions and boxy/”formal” luxury variants. Yeah. Pwnd.

          The sad FWD wheezing Die-Nasty based on the Galant in the alternate (non-nostalgic) timeline? That’s what you’d rather see on Rental Row 11?

  • avatar
    markogts

    I can’t believe it! It’s this commercial coming true, LOL:

    https://youtu.be/50A9wjJ40Dk

  • avatar
    DanielArrr

    When I lived in India in the early 1990s, there were essentially 4 car models available:

    – The Ambassador, based on a Morris from the 1950s, mostly used as taxis and chauffeur-driven cars. Even recent ones felt like you were riding in a car from the 1950s.
    – The Premier Padmini (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premier_Padmini), based on a Fiat from the 1960s. It was mostly used as taxis, with some also privately owned.
    – The tiny Maruti 800 Suzuki-based hatchback (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maruti_800). That was the most common car on the road, what ordinary Indians owned.
    – The Maruti Suzuki sedan. Identical to the Suzuki Swift sold in North America at the time, it was the only really modern car and owned by the upper middle class.

    When I left in 1995, Daewoo was about to enter the market with the Cielo, a hatchback based on the early 1980s Opel Kadett and sold in North America as the Pontiac Lemans/ Passport Optima, Asuna GT)

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Peugeot must really be flush with cash to buy this company. Appears to be a colossal waste of money for a has been product that doesn’t have much meaning anymore in the Indian market. Peugeot should just wait for the Opel/Vauxhill merger to go thru then wait a few years and kill them off.

  • avatar
    rcx141

    Peugeot’s hoping to reverse engineer the Hindustan and learn how to make a reliable car

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I don’t think re-badging an existing PSA car is worth buying the company to use the name. It appears the name does not have the same cache that it once had. I am sure the Indians were more than happy to get some money for a brand that is on its death bed.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @Jeff S
      A new PSA car built in India would be. They are using old British Truck names for Indian designed and built Trucks. The Morris Company that was the inspiration for the Ambassador was part of BMC that became Leyland
      http://www.ashokleyland.com

  • avatar
    orange260z

    As DanielArrr said, in recent decades the Ambassador was largely relegated to taxi and government use.

    The benefits of the Amby were:
    (1) durability – road conditions in many cities make Canadian logging roads feel glass-smooth, and low-speed collisions are an everyday occurrence where having real “bumpers” is a major advantage. People I know with modern cars in India, particularly Kolkata, end up having to repair them with far more frequency than those with older Ambys.
    (2) repairability – having been sold for over 60 years, there is a huge base of independent repair facilities and reconditioned parts, while more modern cars tie you to the dealership.
    (3) space – the tall roof of the Amby allow you to not only sit people side by side, but also stack them on top of each other. I kid you not, we’ve packed over 10 people plus the driver into an Amby. This can be an important consideration in India, where extended families live together but parking and car cost may limit you to one vehicle.

    When we moved to India for a couple of years in the 1980s, my Dad bought an older Mark II and had the vehicle fully rebuilt, with a new motor, new interior, and fresh bodywork. This allowed him to have a very inconspicuous, discreet car with many of the benefits of a newer one.

    It would be interesting to see if PSA could thoroughly modernize the vehicle while leaving the exterior largely the same – that could be very practical.

  • avatar
    peeryog

    And this is how you turn an Ambassador into a Peugeot

  • avatar
    Joss

    I thought Hindustan Contessa was the apex in luxury. A 70’S Vauxhall Ventura? VX 490?

    Anyway it’s all about getting market in IN.


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