Flush With Bailout Money, Peugeot Purchases Legendary Hindustan Ambassador
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 Standard, Hindustan Motors needed to sell the Ambassador brand in order to shore up debts and pay employees.
[Image: Wikimedia Commons ( CC BY-SA 3.0)]
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.
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.
And this is how you turn an Ambassador into a Peugeot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50A9wjJ40Dk
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.