The Indian automobile industry post-independence has been a fascinating sector. From luxurious cars to affordable two-wheelers, owning a vehicle was more a combination of emotional quotient with style statement. And one such noteworthy product was Fiat’s ‘Premier Padmini’. The Premier Auto Limited’s indigenization of Italian carmaker Fiat’s 1100 Delight ruled Indian roads for continuous four decades.
At a time when Calcutta’s Hindustan Motors monopolized its Ambassador market since 1957, Premier Padmini became the first car to land as a chic, sleek and classy competitor. Consumers across India were mesmerized with the interiors, especially the design of the car, the outlook, and its compatibility. The launch of Premier Padmini in 1964 created an alternate option for buyers that embedded an impulse to own a stylized luxurious car.
Initially named as Fiat 1100-Delight the car was later renamed as Padmini, to create a favorable Indian touch. Post-1954, Fiat introduced 1100-D, an innovative version of its predecessor 1100-103 series. The Fiat 1100-D gained immense popularity when Premier Auto Limited started producing the car in 1964 under Fiat’s license. The car was assembled in Premier Auto Plant in Kurla, Bombay till 1997. Hence, that’s the reason Mumbai for several years had Padmini cars as their infamously patent taxis, accessorized with cheeky gizmos.
Just like Kolkata’s Yellow Taxi, the ambassador cars from Hindustan Motors of the bygone era, Premier’s Padmini, dominated Mumbaikar’s emotions through the taxi rides. In the late 60s till the 80s, Premier Padmini ushered the roads, becoming a style statement for youngsters and aristocrats. The Padmini car had sales of 3,400 units every month and sold its highest units of cars of 37,000 in 1987.
Breaking the monopoly of HM, Premier Padmini maintained a close lookalike of the Ambassador. However, it can be stated that Padmini was an improvised version of the bulky ambassador. The car had a 3-box design with chrome-like round headlights. In order to make it attractive, the car had a curved front, rear bumpers, and oval-shaped indicators. Coming to the interiors, the sitting arrangements were 3+2, enough spacious for a family trip along with sober designs. The car had a 1.1 Petrol engine (diesel was introduced later) with a peaking speed of 115km/ hour, priced at Rs, 30,000.
The Premier Padmini served Indians for over four decades with its seamless service and compatibility. Now, it has been 20 years since Premier stopped Padmini’s production due to new automobile advancements and government norms. The fact cannot be refuted that old vehicles add more carbon footprints than the newer ones, but, it is also undeniable that Padmini is still a nostalgia for many car lovers.