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Maruti 800 rides into history

Since its launch, cumulative sales of the model stand at a whopping 2.7 million units

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The original people's car, which had once become synonymous with the great Indian dream, turned into a footnote in India's automobile history on Friday, with announcing it had stopped production of the Maruti 800.

The car, once the dream project of Sanjay Gandhi, was launched in 1983 by then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

"We have stopped production of the M800. There were issues related to saleability and acceptability of the product because of safety and emission regulations that are to come in soon," said Maruti Suzuki Chairman R C Bhargava.

The company had completely stopped production of the model on January 18 this year. Now, the Alto 800 would be the company's entry-level model.

MSIL said though production of the car had been stopped last month, spare parts would be made available to customers for the next eight-10 years, according to rules. The company had already discontinued sale of the M800 in 13 cities, including the four metros, in April 2010, as the product did not meet BS-IV emission norms.

"It is a dated model and has been selling for a long time. We had already decided we would not invest to upgrade the M800 to meet BS-IV emission norms. We, therefore, decided to discontinue the product," Bhargava said.

Between April 2013 and December, sales of the M800 rose 21 per cent to 17,000 units. In comparison, sales of the Chevrolet Spark stood at only 2,448 units in the same period.

The M800 was originally priced at about Rs 50,000. Now, the car is available at about Rs 2.35 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).

In the first year of production, the M800 sold about 850 units in an overall passenger vehicle market of about 40,000 units. Through the 80s and the 90s, sales of the model grew steadily to touch a peak of 20,701 units in March 2003.

Till 2004, the M800 was India's best-selling car till 2004 when it was overtaken by the then newly launched Alto.

Since its launch, cumulative sales of the M800 stand at a whopping 2.7 million units, comparable with the size of the entire passenger vehicle segment (2.68 million units in 2012-13). The first M800 to be sold in India was purchased by Harpal Singh, a New Delhi-based Indian Airlines employee who had won ownership rights to the car through a lucky draw. He was handed over the keys to the car by then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Current Prime Minister and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar are among the millions who own an M800 in India.

The original M800 was based on the Suzuki Fronte SS80. An upgraded version, using the body of the second-generation Alto (SB308) was launched in 1986. Since then, the car has seen minor facelifts. After a BSIII-compliant version of the car was introduced in 2005, the company categorically stated it would not make any further investments to upgrade the product and discontinue it upon notification of stricter safety and emission norms.

MEMOIRS & MILESTONES

* M800 launched in December 1983 at around Rs 50,000

* Sold around 850 units in first year of production in a market of 40,000 passenger vehicles

* Sales grew steadily through 1980-1990s to a peak of 20,701 units in March 2003. Cumulative sales stand at 2.7 million units

* The first car to be sold in India was purchased by Harpal Singh, an Indian Airlines employee from New Delhi, who won the ownership rights to the car by competing against others in a lucky draw. He was handed over the keys of his dream machine by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

* Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sachin Tendulkar are among the millions who own M800 in India

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