Ambassador is retired

India's ubiquitous Ambassador car has reflected that country's own journey over the past few decades

There was a time when the word “Ambassador” was practically synonymous with “car” in India. With itsantique curves and outdated appearance, the Ambassador stood the test of time – and just about withstood the rough Indian roads.

But the world shows little sympathy for those who fail to adapt to changing times. So, despite being one of India’s most prestigious brands for more than half a century, the Ambassador has lost the battle against its competitors and production has been suspended.

For decades, the Ambassador had no power brake, power steering or seat belts, let alone airbags. Front bucket seats have only recently been an option. Fuel economy was woeful, and yet the car commanded a premium price. Owners would mention with pride how easy it was to repair, without wondering why it broke down so often in the first place.

In this respect, the Ambassador has reflected India’s own journey over the past few decades: the world progressed but the country, like the car, remained stuck in the past.

In the same way that more modern models with better features have superseded the Ambassador, India’s new government faces the challenge of replacing its woeful roads, railways and other failing infrastructure.

Published: May 26, 2014 04:00 AM