Having experienced first hand the inferior make of Maruti cars and Renault Kwid, I was elated to note that at a recent seminar organized by SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers), Sh. Giridhar Aramane, Secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has raised the issue of Indian automobile manufacturers selling passenger vehicles with purposefully downgraded safety standards in India.
Coming from Middle-Class background one of my first aspirations was to own a Maruti. Honestly speaking the urge was never for the Premier Padmini, the Ambassador or the Contessa. I am sure any reader in the 40+ bracket will agree with me on this count, such was the fascination for Maruti. For Millions of Indians, ‘ Mera Sapna Meri Maruti’ was not an advertisement but a mission, the ultimate goal in life that you could aspire for and flaunt with pride.
When I picked up my first passenger vehicle, the Maruti Zen (2000 model) from a Second-Hand dealership it was like a dream come true. Satisfied with its performance and build quality, after a year or so I exchanged it for a new Zen Estilo (2000 model), only to realise later that I had invested in a tin can.
Every minor bump or scrape would leave a huge dent and by the end of the third year or so, I had already had to replace 3 doors, the bonnet, the boot, half the chassis to some extent; in other words everything except the roof which I could proudly claim to be original. Even the humble Bajaj Auto Rickshaw proved to be more durable when it brushed by my Maruti on the busy roads of Agra. The Auto Rickshaw literally dragged my car a few inches after leaving behind a fist-size hole in the door panel.
On another occasion the cleaner banged into a stationery bus while reversing it, thereby reducing the size of the car by half, i.e. all the way upto the front seat. On the steep inclines of Rambagh Valley, a truck driver while reversing gently touched the bonnet which gave way completely. Seeing the miserable condition of the car, the owner took pity and paid me a few thousand rupees as compensation even without much convincing. The look of pity that was written across his face made me feel ashamed and I thought it better to shy away.
Another issue that troubled me was the deep fascination that stray animals took for my car, maybe because it was of a colour (Dusky Brown) quite similar to cow dung. On the way back from Mathura, one of two stray calves fighting among themselves decided to try its luck at occupying the front passenger seat of my car by banging into it.
Though it did not succeed, it left a huge dent on the front door requiring a complete replacement. While the calf left the spot grinning I was left nursing a wounded pocket and pride.
As long as I owned the Maruti Zen Estilo, visits to the Service Centre used to be such a regular phenomenon that I even contemplated taking a flat on rent in the vicinity.
A few years later I got the opportunity of driving a Renault Kwid in Bangalore and believe me those bad feelings came back but in greater measure. If Maruti Zen Estilo was bad in build quality, Renault was worst. On a gentle incline (ramp) the Auto Transmission began to pant and gave up, resulting in the car touching the wall behind it.
I was simply ashamed to see the mechanic at the body repair shop fixing the huge dent with his bare hands, to be precise, his fingers. Much to my surprise, he did not even try to reach out for the usual tools.
After living through years of trauma I have finally opted for a TATA Tiago, not because of its looks but purely on account of its strong build. I have been using it since 2017 and believe me it is an old workhorse, tuff on both the inside as well the outside.
Innumerable news reports of accidents involving TATA cars always end on a positive note with little to no harm to passengers has reassured me on the quality of the purchase. The same can also be said about Mahindra cars.
In conclusion, I would like to say that it is high time Indian Automobile Manufacturers producing substandard passenger cars, stop cheating their customers and endangering their lives. When we can pay for our Life Insurance, we can also pay a little extra to ensure we don’t need to present an Insurance claim.