An Indica Experience of ~ 9 years & 1,25,000 Km

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.

13 thoughts on “An Indica Experience of ~ 9 years & 1,25,000 Km”

  1. Nice write up. That is alot of running in there, but 1250000 in 9 years is not that much of daily running. Also the problems you faced could be because of the years and not necessary the kms. Tata still needs to up the game. The new Indica Vista is good but it still needs to become better with the competition so harsh. If you were driving another car, maybe you would have faced slightly lesser problems.
    .-= fas´s last blog ..Nissan Leaf – Fully Electric Compact =-.

  2. Kudos to Mr.Jacob Chacko and Sushil.This is what a perfect long term user review.Clearly said both pro’s and con’s of Tata Indica.Personally I too feel the quality control efforts of many Indian Automobile manufacturers have to go miles beyond the current levels.Also actual customer feedbacks/field problems should incorporate/address in product design stage itself then only a product can sustain in long term.
    .-= George´s last blog ..Mitsubishi Evo X India Launch By January 2010 =-.

  3. George – the credit really goes to Jacob for taking the time to write up his ownership experience. I did’nt have to do much other than minor formatting and publish it online.

  4. I too have a Indica. and must agree the service network of tata is very bad. I get my indica serviced from a roadside mechanic..
    The road side mechanic is more expert than the guys at the service centers.

    And am living with minor problems which all Indica owners face…

    I would never buy a Tata product ever in the future, for every company they should focus on the service network and they should have trained mechanics to solve the problems.

    Maruti and Hyundai only seem to be the best in after sales service (I mean TRAINED MECHANICS)

  5. Every car begins to give trouble only after 30k kms and the Indica’s woes start early. I think the newer versions are better off and many modifications and serious alterations have been carried out. The Vista I drove the other day was a really good one..but after 20k kms, I’m sure the rattling and vibrations will begin. But since this has a Fiat engine+gearbox (at least in the one I drove), the engine issues you’ve faced would not be repeated.
    .-= Indian Autos Blog´s last blog ..SAIC might purchase a GM Indian plant to produce vans =-.

  6. THE GOOD:-:-: I have been using Indica V2 since Nov 2002. Overall the experience with the car has been excellent. I do have quite a few excellent memories of long rides (with family) into the hills, like Rishikesh-Joshimath drive in the middle of the night and in the midst of a heavy storm and crossing a leopard and a porcupine. Then there was the one from Delhi to Shimla and onto Tattapani (Satluj River) again through a storm. I just love driving in the Hills and stormy weather makes it that much more exciting.

    THE EXPECTED :-:-: The only time I had a problem was while coming back from Mukteshwar to Delhi when the car’s temperature guage suddenly shot up toward the red, without any telltale signs or previous warning. The coolant had nearly dried up. This caused a leakage to develop in the elbow joint. I limped back to Delhi by topping up the radiator every 100 KM or so. Got the elbow joint and gasket replaced. However the coolant kept vanishing and I needed to top up almost 1.5 to 2 ltrs every 50 KM.

    THE BAD :-:-: It needed multiple trips to the TASC for the same problem. They changed the water pump and said the problem has been rectified. The coolant still needed topping up every 50 KM (1.5 ltrs). I went back and they changed another part and again said that the problem has now been rectified. Nothing changed and I still needed to pour in 1.5 ltrs every 50 KM. So went back to TASC and howled……. and scribbled lot of things on their job sheet. This time they managed to resolve it and did not charge me anything. Things looked OK and after few days I thought of checking the level of coolant and tried to open the Cap (cold engine). I wouldn’t budge and I needed a pipe wrench to open it. Then it dawned on me that the problem was leaky cap of the coolant reservoir. Now I keep a pipe wrench in the dicky to close the cap really tight. I felt cheated that the water pump certainly need not have been changed (paid repair).

    THE UGLY :-:-: Earlier also I have been convinced that TASC tend to cheat and needlessly inflate repair bills. In one of the servicing trips I was strongly advised that all four glass raising assemblies needed to be replaced. When I handed in the car I had not requested for it and the assemblies just needed a little adjustment at the most. TASC people had fiddled with them and made it worse. I declined the replacement advice and took the car to a local mechanic. Local guy took just Rs 80/- and adjusted all four. For over 1.5 years I have had no further problem with these.

  7. Indica is good only in terms of mileage… But quality wise its v.v. poor.. Also the engine perfomance is not upto the mark.. In city traffic u ll have to shift 1st gear almost everytime… AC is also not so effective inspite its pickup drastically drops. The engine needs overhaul very soon when compared to other cars… To conclude, its well suited for Taxi & not for personal use.

  8. I have been using Indica DLS from year 2002. I am also not at all happy with the Tata service centre. They just make the bill bigger. Even for small problems which can be repaired(by a local mechanic), they just replace the entire set costing thousands for us 🙁
    Diesel tank fuel indicator was not working. When I went, they changed the entire set which submerges in the fuel tank. It worked for two days and again same problem. Finally after 3 months of trying they figured out that it was wiring problem. But still they had already changed the set and charged me wasting materials also 🙁
    I have lot more bitter experiences like this. Mechanics at TASC seem like bit lazy in repairing. So, they find it easy to replace instead of repair. My next car will never be from Tata Motors !

    1. Vijendra Kumar – Sad to hear your experience. However most manufacturers/dealers find it easier to replace first and investigate later. Usually if you are lucky this trial and error gets done during warranty period. However its sad you had to shell out money for a fix that wasnt required. I have heard of similar experiences from other Manifactureres as well. Some of them are tryign to change – but am sure it will take time.



  10. I am having an Indica dls 2003 december. i have had and not so good experience with it til say 2009 may be I had done about 60k kms. Good battery only replaced it twice in 11 years, only two tyres replaced as of date. Had several long drives, got 23km with ac on long drives. Problems with exhaust, coolant, rattling. Bad and inflated service centres Minimum bill with no specific complaint would be 15k. Local mechanics solve problems that service cant. They just replace never repair or even make an attempt. Their money machine spins on service!!!

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