The rise and the fall of “Premier Padmini”

Unlike the last four Diwalis, this year I was able to come home on  Diwali. Flipping through the old photographs casually, I came across a  picture of me and our “Premier Padmini” aka “Fiat” parked inside our  porch. Time seemed to have frozen in those two minutes as I was drawn  into the childhood memories associated with this car.

I have the memories of this car (more popularly known as the “Fiat”)  for as long as I can remember. Fiats had a steering column mounted  gear-shifter on the left hand side of the steering, had a two row  seating and no front bucket-seats. Sitting in the the front seat of the  car, as a small boy in the early 90s, all I could see was the cassette  player (yes this was a luxury in those days, no CD players in the market that time), and from the wind-screen, the sky, the clouds and occasionally a  few leaves and branches of tall trees. I clearly remember the big  boot-space of this car. Fiat was also very comfortable for long drives  as compared to its competitors. I was very upset on the day we exchanged  our Fiat for a more sophisticated 5-door “hatchback” of the modern era  in the late mid 90s.

Fiat, for a long long time was a luxury car to its owner, to say the  least. From youngsters to actors, it was a dream car for all. Back in  those days, its only big competitor was the “Ambassador”, or the “Amby”,  by Hindustan Motors. But Fiat was still a class apart. With its more  modern and classy looks, this 4 door saloon was far more fuel efficient  and easier to drive than its competition, the Amby. It provided a clear  view of all four corners of the car from the driving seat. These  features made Fiat the most “sought-after” car of those days. Throughout  the early 90s and until the mid 90s, as there were a lot fewer cars on  roads that time, driving a car in itself was a luxury, let alone driving  a Fiat.

It was not until the mid 90s, that the Fiats started to face some  competition, thanks to the liberalization policy of 1991, which for the  first time saw quite a number of other cars, specially Maruti 800s on  the road. Maruti 800s although were launched in 1980s, saw a significant  increase in their number on the road only by mid 90s. During this time,  there were a few more cars too other than Maruti 800s, including the  Maruti 1000 (yes, there were just two models of Maruti that time), 118NE having a Nissan engine, which again was a modern car by Pal  Automobiles, the manufacturers of Premier Padmini. With the advent of  more modern, fuel-efficient cars, the popularity of Fiat, as it was  called in India, slowly began to wane and the production finally stopped  in 2001.

The fall of Premier Padmini marked the end of an “attitude” era.  People were no longer keen on going for a 4-door saloon, but were rather  more interested in the 5-door hatchbacks. The Indian roads were soon  flooded with other cars, specially Maruti 800s. Other manufacturers viz.  Tata, Hyundai, Daewoo, etc. also introduced their hatchback models in  the Indian market. By early 2000s, another segment grew by leaps and  bounds, it was a segment for the luxury sedans. As the purchasing power  of the common man increased significantly, owning a car was no longer a  luxury, but a necessity.

The time of the Fiats has now passed. While the Fiats can no longer  be seen on the roads anymore, those who have owned a Fiat still have  nice memories associated with this car. As it is rightly said-

time flies, but the memories collected along the way can never be replaced.



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