Maruti Suzuki: The Indian mega-factory
The strange thing is that there’s very little aggression when Indians use the horn. It’s almost a communication tool. And the even crazier thing is that if anyone actually bothered to use their mirrors – half the cars have the driver’s side ones folded in so they can squeeze through even tinier gaps – they wouldn’t need the horn in the first place. I was determined to try to not give anyone a toot while I was driving because… well, because I’m British. And damn it, man, I only feel the need to get on the horn when someone has really ticked me off.
And do you know what? It never mattered. I made it through Delhi rush hour without a single scratch on the car. But the traffic demonstrates why Indians want what they do from their cars, aside from the obvious horn, and that’s size. Small is better, and it’s where there’s a huge difference from China. The Chinese built their roads and then let the people buy cars. In India, it’s been the other way around. As such, big SUVs and limos don’t work because there isn’t enough room. Tiny hatches are king – practicality is important to Indians, as is value for money.
And by that, I don’t necessarily mean cheap. The Tato Nano is the absolute cheapest car on sale in India, but it only just scrapes onto the top 10 best-selling list. Our Alto 800, 82,000 dearer, is comfortably at the top of the board. Indians love it, because it’s small, they know it won’t break down, and they’ll get a good price when they swap it in five years’ time. This isn’t just idle PR from Maruti Suzuki, either. Standing at the end of the Gurgaon production line, watching a new car whizz past every 16 seconds, it’s worth remembering that every single one has an owner waiting for it. A staggering 100,000 people have paid deposits.