This post is written by one of the readers of this blog Jacob Chacko who on request shared the ownership experience of his Tata Indica (he owned and drove it for around 9 years clocking around 1,25,000 km in the duration selling it this past Friday). Thanks Jacob Chacko for sharing your experience with the Indica! Here is his story with photos of his car:
After 11 years on a petrol Ambassador, I had begun to feel weary of driving with such a heavy steering wheel (perhaps, because I was also growing in age), that I started looking for a new Car. India’s dream car, TATA Indica had been launched just about a year ago. The euphoria that peaked with margins for new Indicas had died down and teething troubles had taken over. Since I was contemplating a change from an Ambassador, my priorities were adequate space (for my parents), ease of ingress and egress, driveability and good fuel efficiency. I needed to run 1000- 1500 km a month and a diesel alternative to my ambassador had become rather imperative.
The TATA tagline was quite impressive : “The space of an Ambassador with the efficiency of a Zen at the price of a Maruti-800 !” This description vastly suited my requirements. I did a TD to verify facts. The space indeed was fine. The diesel engine did not sound all that bad – certainly not the roar of (shipping) diesel engines that were doing duty on some Ambassadors. The only competitor was the Fiat Uno, in which efficiency and build were reported to be superior. But, then TATA was coming up with a passenger car for the very first time. Who wouldn’t give them a try, especially in the context of the near-repulsive service from Uno’s then dealers, TVS ? The decision in favour of Indica was rendered easy by a comparative feature that appeared in one of the auto magazines, which gave the verdict, something to this effect : Despite, all that, the scales can be seen ticking the Indica way with the claimed superior fuel efficiency at much lower vehicle costs. The local TATA dealership took personal interest, offered freebies and supervised the delivery of an Emerald Green (no semblance to green ; more to grey, though !) Indica in November 2000.
I remember I was ecstatic all through the running-in period : it had already fetched me a fuel efficiency of 17 kmpl ! And, I did like the soft sound of the new diesel engine.
Problems It was smooth riding until around 37000 km when trouble surfaced with the car showing excessive oil consumption. Besides oil changes specified at service schedules, I had to keep topping-up every now and then. I had maintained my own diary on the mileage and the oil consumed. I started writing letters to TATA management, with little reprieve.
This went on until the vehicle clocked about 70000 km. Meanwhile, confronted with my repeated visits to the TASC with the very same complaint of excessive oil consumption and allied effects of excessive smoke on initial starting etc., the service advisors privately hinted that engine overhauling was the only way out. They narrated several instances of similar occurrences and how, after engine overhauling, such vehicles were rendered out of the clutches of this malady.
After repeated complaints to TATA management, the TASC was instructed to conduct a HOC Test (High Oil Consumption Test). All oil was drained out of the sump, weighed and poured back before it was driven by TATA (me seated alongside) for 300 km at a stretch. The residual oil was again drained and weighed.
Oil consumption was calculated as : Weight of oil x 1000 / 0.88 x Km run.
In my case, for 299 km, the difference in weight of oil was observed to be 125.2 g.
Thus, 125.2 X 1000 / 0.88 X 299 = 475.83 ml / km
TATA explained that 500 ml / km was the maximum permissible limit for Oil consumption (but, I was not shown any documentation to attest this claim) and that, therefore, this value was indeed within limits ! The fact that the value was almost at the max. of the permissible limit was not a matter of concern to them. Even so, it was clear that at as low a mileage as < 70000 km, the car was already nearing the upper limit of “permissible” oil consumption. The import of the idiom, “You can take a horse to water, but cannot make it drink,” dawned upon me with full force.
My last resort was to address none other than Mr Ratan Tata himself. If this excessive oil consumption were not to be attributed to flaws in manufacture and / or in strict quality control, were Indica cars expected to undergo engine overhauling at mileages as low as 70000 km. His office replied that Mr Tata was on tour and that the matter would be attended to by others. This question, finally, fetched me some minor discounts by way of piston rings and accessories for carrying out engine overhauling at < 70000 km !
TATA ought to be more receptive to customer feedback / complaints and should demonstrate the resolve to redress genuine grievances to mutual satisfaction. For those like me who were prepared to accept the new Indian venture with all its teething troubles, TATA – through their actions, rather inaction – seemed to prove the point that they cared a hoot for us ! They ought to display the readiness, leave alone the grace, to acknowledge deficiencies / faults.
Visits to TASC (Focuz Motors)
This car has been with me for 104 months now and has clocked 125000+ km. I have strictly adhered to TATA recommendations on service schedules and have maintained it with utmost care. In all, I have had to make 49 visits to the TASC, of which 23 were for regular service check-ups at specified intervals. In all fairness, I must compliment the service personnel at the TASC (Benz Motors, later renamed as Focuz Motors) for being receptive, considerate and helpful. I might well be one among their long-standing customers.
Other issues / repairs
After overhauling of the engine, there has not been any complaint of excessive oil consumption or the like. Other issues have been the following :
- Clutch plate replacement at ~ 70000 km (done along with engine-overhauling)
- Glow plugs were the most problematic, requiring 8 replacements
- Steering rack and pinion assy was replaced at ~ 95000 km
- Wheel cylinders replaced 6 times
- Ball joints replaced 8 times
- AC bearing, compressor repairs effected at ~ 87000 km
Despite all these troubles, this Indica of mine has never let me down on the road. Fuel efficiency was an average of 16-18 km/ litre within the city (with AC) amidst Cochin’s notorious traffic snarls and between 20 -22 km on the highways (with AC). It has even peaked to 24 km / litre at times.
The first battery had a remarkable life of 68 months !
I have bills, vouchers and accounts of every expense incurred at TASC all through the past ~ 9 years and ~ 125000 km. Costs for maintenance (includes spares, lubes, consumables, servicing, labour and taxes, but excludes tyres, battery and fuel) of this vehicle have worked out to an average of ~ 80 ps per km.
My Next Car – Not a TATA:
The new version — Indica Vista is generous on space and tempting in appeal. User reviews that sing praises (for sure, they have the right to do so) to the vehicle are all written based on the early few thousand km experience. Problems crop up only after the vehicle has run ~ 15000 km. All across the web, I have come across only a single review from an owner who had used his Vista Quadrajet for ~ 16000 km and that review was indeed daunting. I wouldn’t want to risk a repeat of the snags I faced – all of which could be traced to manufacturing defects arising out of severe deficiencies in strict quality control at every stage, including that at the site of the vendors that supply spares to TATA cars. After all, isn’t experience the best teacher ?
TATA badly needs to reorient their functional priorities to be sensitive to the needs and perceptions of the customer, if ever they intend to befriend and build lasting relationships with him. The Indica Club, launched by TATA with much fanfare, appeared to have met with a premature death; TATA did not seem to be bothered even by this.
Therefore, sadly though, I have decided to trade off my Indica for another brand from a different manufacturer, keeping my fingers crossed on what might yet lie in store for me now !
PS: Please do reach out to Jacob through the comments here on this post in case you need any tips or advice on Indica’s. Am hoping to get an update on his experience with a new brand of vehicle after his move from Tata.