INDIA: Hindustan halts 'Morris Oxford' Ambassador production
Hindustan Ambassador factory, shown in undated file photo, is very basic by modern standards with equipment similar to that in a low volume, 1970s-era CKD plant
The state of West Bengal's Labour Department has called a meeting for tomorrow (28 May) in an attempt to avert the demise of the 1950s Morris Oxford-based Hindustan Ambassador which has been in production since 1957 after the Indian automaker bought production rights and tooling from the British Motor Corporation.
It was faithfully reproduced in India, right down to metal sun shield over the windscreen, chrome wing mirrors, rounded wings and a curved boot with a pop-out turnkey.
Hindustan Motors suspended work on the cars on Saturday, citing falling demand, indiscipline at its Uttarparpa plant and a serious shortage of funds for its decision.
Sales have dropped from 24,000 in the 1980s to fewer than 6,000 today, mainly from state governments and the armed forces.
The current Ambassador - colloquially known as the 'Amby' - has been lightly restyled over the years and received more modern engine options - including Isuzu petrol and diesel units made locally under licence - and a completely revamped interior compared with the Oxford Series III 'original' Morris manufactured in England from 1956 to 1959.
Human resource professionals cited by Indian media said no management was able to declare a closure or lock-out due to reasons such as funds crunch or lack of demand for products. They added workers are not responsible and it is the failure of management to study the market conditions and act accordingly.
However, Hindustan maintained that net worth had turned negative, suffering losses for the last 15 years. The decline in demand for the Ambassador has coincided with the emergence of world class Indian motor manufacturers such as Tata, Mahindra and Maruti Suzuki.
The car is one of the last remaining examples of shared history between Britain and its former colony, India.
Hindustan has had tie-ups with General Motors and also built another obsolete British car, the last-of-line, FE series Vauxhall Victor, locally, also buying the rights and tooling after production in England ended. The renamed Hindustan Contessa, like the Ambassador, had locally made Isuzu engines and was made in India from 1984 to 2002.
Most recently, Hindustan has had a deal with Mitsubishi to assemble and distribute mostly previous generation versions of models including the Outlander, Pajero, Pajero Sport and Cedia (Lancer).
Additional reporting: Graeme Roberts