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Birth of the Estate / Stationwagon in India? Wikipedia defines a station wagon as : Practcally speaking a Station Wagon is a 5 seater car with its boot fitted within the cabin area. Now imagine a family of 5 going for a long drive and they have enough suitcases which can fit into either a sedan / station wagon. Both of these would offer almost the similar amount of luggage space - however there are a few positives and negatives for each : Tata was the first manufacturer to introduce the Indian market to the world of Estates / Stationwagons in 1992. And what more better name than naming it after the bodystyle - Estate. The Tata Estate was also the first proper car manufactured by Tata and boasted of many features which were then considered luxurious - height adjustable power steering, all 4 power windows, 15 inch wheels with wide tyres, tachometer, rear wiper. In addition to these luxuries, it also boasted loads and loads of cabin and luggage space - a combination which none of the manufacturers could offer then. The Estate also was a good looker - all thanks to the design cues taken from the Mercedes Benz T Series (E Class Estate). All these factors combined resulted in the Tata Estate being a hit in the market. Mind you - the bodyline (stationwagon) had nothing to do with the success of the Tata Estate. The Tata Estate however had a couple of drawbacks - it was a very unrefined and crude car and was a quality disaster (obviously since it was just a testing ground for Tata). There were other more refined and fuel efficient vehicles in the market - Maruti 1000, Maruti Esteem, Daewoo Cielo which were priced almost the same as the Estate. Also, Tata had launched the mighty Sumo to cater to the UV market (which then was dominated by the Mahindra Armada). People looking for a lot of space and seating capacity moved from the Tata Estate to the Tata Sumo. And those looking for a good refined car moved to the 1000, Esteem, Cielo. Basically it was Tata's own product - the Sumo - which killed the Estate. For the limited period of time that the Estate was manufactured and till the Tata Sumo arrived, the Estate managed to sell in decent numbers. Although the thread title states that the Altura was the 2nd Estate in India - this title ideally goes to the Rover Montego Estate which was launched only for a brief period in 1994. The car, although way much ahead of its time - hardly sold in even decent numbers. Years later as the Indian market and economy opened up - new segment of cars started pouring in. Manufacturers started getting in their expensive models to get a good share of the luxury car market. Maruti Udyog Limited had launched their flagship model then - the new Baleno which had just received a facelift in internationally. Not only did MUL have its presence felt in all the segments - small car (800/Zen), Entry level sedan (1000). mid-size luxury sedan (Esteem), UV/MUV segment (Omni), SUV (Gypsy), high end luxury sedan (Baleno) - it was also leading them in sales. It was now time for them to tap into a segment which was left untouched after the Tata Estate. So in late 2000 / early 2001, MUL launched the Baleno Altura. Fiat and Opel lost no time and decided to jump into the estate bandwaon without even doing an evaluation. They blindly went aheas and launched the Siena Weekendand the Corsa Swing respectively. But this wasnt the end of the Estate market in India. In 2004, Tata tried to make a comeback into the estate market with the Indica based station - Indigo Marina - wagon but that too did not do well and was a flop. Skoda went one segment higher than Maruti Suzuki and launched the Octavia Combi but this too couldnt not re-ignite the market in the way the original Tata Estate did. Why the Stationwagon flopped in India? All these station wagons (including the Indigo Marina and the Octavia Combi) - suffered the same fate - they all flopped. And all due to the same reasons : 1. PRICE : Station wagons were priced more higher than their sedan counterparts. The Altura It was an expensive Maruti at Rs 9 lakhs. Until the Baleno hit the market - the most expensive car in MUL's stable was the Maruti Esteem. At an on-road price if Rs 9 lakh, the Baleno was more then twice the price of the Esteem. And the market couldnt accept such an expensive luxury car with a "Maruti" tag. I believe the same is the case with todays models - the Kizashi and Grand Vitara are amazing cars - but havent been a success. The high price of the Baleno / Altura was also due to it being assembled - rather than manufactured in India. If MUL had chosen to manufacture the Baleno in India and localise most of the parts - the Baleno/Altura may have sold in decent numbers. So Price was the main reason that made look buyers away from this car. 2. PERCEPTION : Stationwagons, in India, were perceived (and still are) as a Utility Vehicle (UV) more than a lifestyle product. Stationwagons are more looked at as vehicles which are used to carry heavy loads or luggages - and therefore was not acceptable socially(?). A first time luxury car buyer would be more image conscious and hence a sedan would suit his needs much more than a station wagon. 3. PRACTCALITY : How practical was a station wagon then compared to the other options available in the market? What more does the station wagon offer that the sedan does not? To understand the practicality of a Station Wagon, lets first understand what a Station Wagon actually is. Sedan +ve's : Boot is deep. Luggage in invisible to the outside world and keeps thieves away. You have good visibility since there is nothing to obstruct your rear view. Sedan -ve's Boot space is limited. Passenger needs to step out of the vehicle everytime something needs to be removed from the boot. Stationwagon +ve's Although the boot starts a bit higher than the sedan, it compromises in offering more height (till the roof). Luggage and load is easily accessible from inside the car. Long items can be easily loaded into the car by flipping all the seats. Stationwagon -ve's Your luggage is visible to the outside world and there are more chances of them being robbed. Just a knock on the rear windscreen is enough to access your boot. If the boot area is fully loaded, it may hamper visibility and hence maybe a pain to park. 4. The MUV/UV : Yes, a big part of the contribution towards the failure of the Station Wagon segment in India is the Utility Vehicle / Multi Utility vehicle. The average individual who considers buying a station wagon is mainly looking out for a comfortable 5 seater with loads of luggage space. This requirement could be fulfilled easily by a UV/MUV at almost half the price and double the seating capacity. Why, then, would someone buy a Station Wagon? During the Tata Estate days, people could chose the Tata Sumo which was much more spacious. During the Altura/Swing/Weekend days, people could chose a Qualis/Bolero/Sumo. The extra space available in a station wagon could only be used as only that - Extra Space. I am sure if the extra space was converted into extra seating capacity - station wagons would have sold like hot cakes. But then again - we already had MUVs / SUVs which could do the same job at a much lesser price and would also run on cheaper fuel - like the Tata Sumo. Mahindra Bolero and the Toyota Qualis. This was the wrong car introduced at the wrong time (and can you imagine - its been almost 10 years things have not changed yet). Like I said earlier, in India nothing killed the stationwagon more than the Multi Utility Vehicle. If you look now as well, no manufacturer would dare lauch a stationwagon in India. You already have cars like the Duster, Ertiga, Evalia, Xylo and Innova which do a much better job in terms of space and comfort. So while the REAL Estate market (property) appreciated in India in the new millenium, the real estate market (cars) only kept depreciating. The Baleno/Altura flopping in the market meant : Production would stop soon and spareparts would be rare and expensive. Resale prices would drop drastically. Second hand car buyers could rejoice cos they could get a 10 lakh car for just half the price (or less).
Hey guys, I'm planning to drive down to Matheran during a weekend in December. Its going to be a 120 odd kms drive and I'll be hitting the expressway after a very long time. Quite excited actually. I did have a few questions here and would appreciate if you could address them. The last point where you can take your vehicles is Dasturi Naka. Quite an open park and you're expected to park your car midst trees. I've also read on a website that monkeys often tend to damage your car (scratching, denting the roof, going away with the mirrors etc.) This has made me quite skeptical to take my car up to Dasturi. Is it safe to park your car at Dasturi? Has anyone experienced any of what I mentioned here? Thats about the drive and safety. Now, I also see that there are as many number of points to visit on Matheran as Mahabaleshwar. How many of these are "really" worth visiting? Activities that one may suggest for a winter visit? I will be staying at Matheran for a couple of nights. Looking to spend some good leisure time there. All responses/suggestions appreciated