RKNG

Lemons of India

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                          With all the latest models flooding our shores, it would perhaps be the right time to go down memory lane to identify those duds in our nascent auto market. These are all my personal choices and i will update them once i have time

 

The list hereby. (to be continued...)

 

1.      Maruti 1000

 

 Launched at the start of the 90?fs it was THE car for Maruti. Here was a stylish, contemporary and sleek sedan from the company?fs leading manufacturer more known for its humble 800 and the omni. In one sweep it made all the sedans then available like the contessa, 118ne, ambassador all look as exciting as Doordarshan?fs parliamentary news. It was THE car to be seen in and it became an instant hit. But then people began to drive it and very quickly found out that beneath the space age shape body beat a heart of pure arthritis. The 1000 cc engine put out a pathetic 46hp, wheezed and struggled to pull the car at the speed its shape held promise. Worse still if the aircon was switched on. And that the aircon would cool only well in Siberia added to the disgusted sweaty look on the owners face as even dinky 800s flew past him. Thankfully Maruti updated it midlife with the new 1300cc engine and renamed it the Esteem. The 1000 was left to die a slow death, but for sure it won?ft be missed.

 

2.      Tata Sierra/Estate

 

Buoyed by its success in the LCV segment, optimism was the new word in TATA. The empire had to spread horizontally and make itself a household name in all corners of Indiaon>. For that it had to enter the automotive segment. But to jump straight from trucks to cars was a big leap of faith that even TATA did not wanna risk. So someone suggested bridge products, like SUVs, people carriers to learn the ropes and finesse of car manufacturing before somersaulting headlong into the mass production swimming pool. Sounded great, but it wasn?ft as we shall soon see.

 

The first products to wheeze along was the Tata Estate (the tata mobile was there but it was biblically agricultural). On the face of it was brilliant. It was the perfect car for the great big Indian family with enough space for all the auntijis and unclejis. It had unheard of luxury features at that time, power steering, central locking, power windows ( very much the fashion statement then),Mercedes lookalike seats and a refined diesel engine. A huge estate car that if you squinted a bit, looked like the Mercedes Benz estate. Looked promising, but alas it all started to fall apart pretty soon.

 

                       It wasn?ft as much as just one problem, but a list so huge and so unfathomable that it literally broke the back of TATA?fs service department and tarnished the reputation of this and for that matter the sierra?fs for ever. Even to this day the image of TATAs as high maintenance vehicles are due in part because of these. The engine though smooth and refined, was prone to drinking oil, coolant loss, smoking, starting problems what not. The electrics were even worse with dentist drill sounding and awfully slow power windows, blown fuses and if at all the powered accessories did work, the under spec alternator drained the battery so it won?ft start again. Fantastic.

 

And then we come to the biggest problem of them all?cthe weight. The truck making ethos ensured that the car weighed as much as the moon and proved too much for the tiny 1948 cc engine. Opening the doors (the poor plastic handles didn?ft help much) felt like opening the doors to a bank vault. This weight took its effect on the suspension and the tires with the front ones gobbled up at an alarming rate! All this ensured that you spend more days in the garage than on the road and when word of mouth got around, people deserted it in droves.

 

                                           Quite sad then, that these were the vehicles I dreamed of owning when I was a child. Even to this day a well maintained one can still turn heads (but finding them is like looking for penguins in Rajasthan). Sad, a brilliant concept but let down by horrible execution. But in hindsight, TATA wouldn?ft have been what it is today without these learning curves. Lucky I was not part of that curve.

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You have missed the biggest Lemon India's produced: Sipani-D1. We (my family and me) are one of the unfortunate few to have been to hell and back with this car. I wish I had taken a few photo's then so I could have started an illustrious thread on this godforsaken car. One thing, why I hate that Karun Chandok is coz his family was involved in the service of this car; I think they have a stake in Gurudev Motors, Skoda dealers in TN: How apt. They ripped us off.

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You must be ecstatic that he hardly finishes any races.

His own car is a bit like sipani.

Engine failure, hydraulic failure, brake failure, suspension failure, electric failure etc etc.

***COMPLETE FAILURE***

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RKNG, I would not consider Maruti 1000, Sierra & Estate as complete market duds. All these cars sold in good numbers, the problem was with performance or reliability, etc.

 

The cars according to me which were bigger market duds were:

 

Peugeot 309

Ford Escort

Ford Fusion

Ford Mondeo

Hyundai Sonata Embera

Mahindra Invader

Tata Indigo Marina

Maruti Versa

Maruti Baleno altura

Opel Corsa(station wagon)

& many more!

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A lot depends on what constitutes a lemon. Is it a bad vehicle with design and/or manufacturing flaws, or one which did not sell. I think it should be the former.

One case will be the Premier 118NE. It showed up to be a rust trap, even though it sold in good numbers. Another will be the M1000 - grossly underpowered. The erstwhile Tata Estate will be a third - it might have been a test balloon, but  took teh buyers for a ride. Somehow the ultimate lemon has not made the lsis(s) so far - Standard 2000. I bet this one takes the cake.

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Have any one heard of BADAL ?

I am glad I was too young (and in college) to purchase it. 

It was the first fibre glass car to be sold in our country. 

Was it a car ?  It had only 3 wheels.  Two in the front and one in the back.

 

I think the biggest and the best lemon is Badal.

 

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RKNG' date=' I would not consider Maruti 1000, Sierra & Estate as complete market duds. All these cars sold in good numbers, the problem was with performance or reliability, etc.

 [/quote']

+1 to that.

But even the Marina and Escort were n't a complete fail.

The EPIC FAILUREs were undoubtedly

1. Standard 2000

2. Rover Montego

3. Fiat Petra.

4. ICML Rhino

sgiitk2010-07-16 11:50:56

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@maximas007: well any car or for that matter anything which you buy and are stuck with it for bad service or workmanship can be construed to be a lemon!

Fiat handed everyone lemons back then and the poor folk werent even able to make lemonade!

In other words Fiat took the mickey out of its customers!Kinshuk2010-07-16 12:04:42

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I would consider - standard gazel in the category of lemons of india.- Neither did it sell in good numbers nor was it reliable.

Other cars  I would include - sipani  Dolphin a.k.a reliant kitten and sipani Montana and sipani D1

Sipani Montana

47299.jpg

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More Lemons

The Ambassador had a 1750 cc petrol engine version in the late 1970's . The same BMC engine was rebored and not many sold.

There was a Ambassador Porter - a station wagon on the Amby Mark 4 chassis with a factory built estate body.

The Hindustan Trekker with the 1500 cc BMC diesel was a lemon.

Though the Premier 137D sold a lot it was a lemon.The fuel economy USP and the economic cost created demand for this car. What a car? After driving the Maruti 800 this one felt like a mini tractor.The engine NVH levels were intolerable and the body rattle was like never before.

And the best lemon award from me goes to by the Mahindra CJ 500D (4X4) ! Already I may be under attack for calling the Premier 137D a lemon (is CYRUS there?) and now its a Mahindra?

I had used this jeep for very long distance commuting for many years in its hey days. The TINA (there is no alternative)came into play as it had no worthy competitor. It sold in the thousands.I am sure there is no one to beat the ruggedness of this go anywhere jeep that had the MD 2350 diesel engine borrowed from the International tractors that Mahindra had a licence for.The fuel pump was a Mico Bosch that had to be pumped whenever there was an airlock. The 3 speed Willys gearbox was mated to this engine and the result was a winner with M&M.It delivered 11kmpl and needed almost no maintenance.It did not need a battery to run the engine (like the new bikes) and once as the battery was dead, I got it push started by some labourers and took off for the drive.The horn or lights did not work but the engine never let me down.

Its maximum speed was about 90 kmph. But Premiers and Ambys would routinely overtake me.

Why I am calling it a lemon?

The diesel engine shook, rattled and rolled the metal jeep body at idling

that would digest whatever I had eaten.The body weldings would come off routinely. As the jeep moved 10, 20, 40,(40 plus was for the third gear),60 kmph(it could cruise all day long @ 60kmph) the engine NVH levels were unheard of  except for those who are used to driving tractors.

I had to shout to talk to anyone seated next to me as the engine noise was terrific.Wonder why my ears are still not short of hearing. And  even driving this jeep for about 250-300 kms I would get very tired.There was no AC or the electronic PS  and a soft canopy hood was all for protection.The steering was much, much more tough to manoeuvre as compared to petrol jeeps, just due to the archaic and heavy cast iron MD2350 under the hood.

So was this not a LEMON which only sold very well, just because there was no alternative to it then.

anjan_c20072010-07-16 15:21:37

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Maruti's Grand Vitara XL7 and also the new Vitara is one. Also ZenD wasn't a good one either. The zen classic looked a disaster too.

Hyundai Sonata Gold is another. Too long and sold too less. Spares were steeply priced and FE was horrible.

Mercedes R class is also an Indian Lemon. Failed to sell some.

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IMO, Zen Classic & Ford Fusion are the biggest ones, seen post-1995.

 

Opel Vectra & Ford Mondeo are big Lemons of New-Age cars.

Chevrolet(=Subaru) Forester was the Good vehicle & even it was the only car with the Punchier 'BOXER' engine at that time but being a CBU & thus High-Price tag made it to go down the way.

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The most miserable fail (I'd daren't call it a lemon) was the Chevy SRV.

It was the perfect premium hatch and lacked nothing, and had everything. Performnace, Value, space good looks and more.

But the premium hatch market had not opened up as yet and..

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Correct me if I am wrong, but shouldn't we consider lemons as the vehicles which actually were  a pain to drive rather than if the same are not selling in good numbers?

If we talk about the Estate/Siera or 118NE, it is paramount to see that at that particular time when these vehicles were marketed there was no competition to these due to various factors, the prime factor being 'price'.

The costomer had no ather choice but to buy that because of his own constraints.

Lemon would be a vehicle which has never delivered as promised and also never according to one's choice and not because it has not sold in drastic numbers. Erratic service backup maybe another cause for us to call a vehicle to be a lemon, but then any vehicle would fail if not serviced periodically.

Most of the vehicles which have been listed earlier as lemons have come out newer models to upgrade as technological advancements have taken place. GV from Maruti was built for a purpose which it delivers as promised by the manufacturer and as required by the consumer. If we want the vehicle to be sold at the same price a Maruti 800 just because it is very expensive and the fuel consumption is high, it does not become a lemon.

Finally, owning a car and then making a judgement as to the same is a lemon or not would be fair go at the vehicles rather than taking a pick at vehicles just because "my friend's uncle says so!"

I have personally owned a 118NE and now I own a Mitsubishi Cedia. The NE did trouble me because of its rusting problem and other fittings inside and outside the cabin, service was always a sore point with Premier's , but the car never ceased to put a smile on the face when driven(I could have bought a Maruti 800 instead considering it as a non-lemon!). If I consider Cedia as lemon then all the Mitsubishi vehicles sold in India are lemon because the service backup of HM is not that strong. Cedia is an expensive buy, but the delivery of the vehicle will never cease to impress. At 40000km on the odo the car feels as good as new and the servicing cost has been cheaper than Honda City(I owned it prior to this one and after the NE. Drove it for 68000km before upgrading) at this point.

Any vehicle which gives hassle free ownership is not a lemon, but a vehicle which keeps on troubling you and not performing is.

I hope I have not been on the wrong track in giving my point of view. I felt that ownership of a particular vehicle may give a chance tot he owner to decide upon it being CITRUS.

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Standard 2000 was an awesome Rover SD1 (Special Division-1) in the UK. It came with a V8 and its interiors were from the future (UK version). It had the looks of a Ferrari (they did indeed copy some Ferrari). Unfortunately, it came with a 1.8L engine for India eventhough those looks deserved more. Naturally, it failed, thanks to HM

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Standard 2000 was an awesome Rover SD1 (Special Division-1)?in the UK. It came with a V8 and its interiors were from the future (UK version). It had the looks of a Ferrari (they did indeed copy some Ferrari). Unfortunately' date=' it came with a 1.8L engine for India eventhough those looks deserved more. Naturally, it failed, thanks to HM[/quote']

How was HM responsible for the fail of the Standard?

It came with the unsuitably poor Vanguard 2000cc engine (hence the name 2000) which was derived from Standard's CV range. Gearshift too was pathetic. Ignoring which, it was a fine car, and in fact, the finest of those times.

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