India's iconic Ambassador car brand is sold to Peugeot

An Ambassador car stands parked under a blossoming tree in Bangalore (30 May 2014) Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Ambassador was not renowned for its handbrake or steering lock

One of India's most iconic car brands has been sold by Hindustan Motors to the French manufacturer Peugeot for a nominal $12m (£9.6m), officials say.

The Ambassador car used to be one of India's most prestigious vehicles beloved by government ministers. But it has been out of production since 2014.

It is not clear whether Peugeot will revive the brand.

Based on the British Morris Oxford, the Ambassador was for three decades India's bestselling car.

Peugeot has long been keen to get a foothold in India and was one of the first foreign car makers to enter the country in the mid-1990s when the economy first was liberalised.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption For many years the Ambassador was the car of choice of ministers and civil servants

The Ambassador was from the 1960s to the mid-1980s a status symbol in India and was the only mass produced luxury car on the market.

Although not renowned for its good looks, the car did win plaudits for its spacious interior and sound suspension, which was ideally suited to Indian roads. It was also one of the first diesel cars to appear in India and one of the first to have air conditioning.

But its downfall was as spectacular as its rise - dropping from sales of more than 20,000 cars in the mid-1980s to about 2,000 in 2013-14 when production was suspended.

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The car was also renowned for its idiosyncrasies.

The handbrake rarely worked properly - instead spawning a generation of drivers that could easily do hill starts deftly balancing the accelerator and brake.

The indicator controls were often mounted in unusual positions, its brakes were notoriously soft and its steering lock was virtually non-existent.

Image caption Ambassador taxis are still commonplace in Indian cities
Image copyright AFP
Image caption More and more Ambassadors are now off the roads and seen as relics of yesteryear

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