Altos and 800s - Through the years
The best selling car in the country is an 800 and has always been an 800 now for the better part of 27 years, a feat not very many cars can lay claim to. And surprisingly it has all to do with the fact that the 800cc legacy and tradition has all come from Maruti-Suzuki. The very first Maruti 800 which debuted in the mid-1980s to get put the nation on Suzukis was indeed the first generation Alto albeit named 800 in India. This angular tiny terrier impressed one and all, not just because of its price but also because of the previous antecedents of Sanjay Gandhi’s ill-fated Maruti programme. Everyone wanted to see how a PSU outfit (which in turn had made so many other top performers in diverse other sectors saw them get nationalised) could set out to deliver the goods and when the tiny humdinger of an automobile began to hit Indian roads and run rings around the combined opposition, it marked the beginning of the modern day Indian automobile industry.
One remembers the low list price, Rs 45,000 or thereabouts for the first models before they started gyrating higher and higher. What wasn’t to be faulted was the fact that it dawned on the majority that small wasn’t puny, lightweight wasn’t weak and Japanese was not longer a bad word! In one fell swoop it completely obliterated pre-conceived notions of the automobile in the minds of Indians.
Maruti Udyog didn’t sit still and within a couple of years went in for the first complete model change, bringing in the latest Alto which was again badged the 800 in India. This began a very long run and truly put affordable motoring in the hands of the masses. This car was also the one which began to tell strongly across all spectrum of Indian society and like the Bajaj Chetak scooter of the same period began to command long waiting lists and high premiums.