Around the World : Standard Motor Products

Following India’s independence in 1947, a raft of carmakers tried to gain a foothold in the market.

The UK’s Standard Company was one such operation, and following successful negotiation with the Indian Government, Standard Motor Products of India Limited was duly formed shortly after.

A potted history

Standard 2000s coming off the line, as photographed during 1987.
Standard 2000s coming off the line, as photographed during 1987.

STANDARD entered the Indian car marker during 1948, when that country’s government implemented a policy that encouraged the growth of its own industries. For far too long, the country had been reliant on the UK, and it seemed the logical thing to ensure that the country could rapidly reach a state of self-sufficiency. Back in the UK, The Standard Motor Company had been keen to enter this emerging market, and brokered a deal with the Indian government to set-up a carmaking facility in the Madras region of India.

Because overall cars sales in India were tiny (especially compared with its huge population), the government ensured that there was a tight control over the industry. As a result, companies were allocated regions, as well as vehicle sizes in order to avoid any competition. Standard Motor Products of India were granted permission to produce small cars – and within two years of being formed, the company were producing the Vanguard model (a car its UK makers had always intended to be a post-War world car).

Local content needed to be high, and as quickly as possible, local component producers were drafted in to provide parts – by the early 1950s, locally made parts were used by Standard.

In 1955, the locally produced Standard 8/10 was launched; 1959 saw the Standard Pennant, but in 1961 the Standard (nee Triumph) Herald was introduced in India.

Local content continued to rise, and by 1964, engines, gearboxes and axles were being manufactured locally. It was this steady progression towards autonomous production that resulted in Standard’s financial independence in 1973, and between that time and 1985, business trebled. This was not through car production, however, as between 1977 and 1985, the company focused completely on the production of commercial vehicles. Investment in commercial vehicle engine production initially saw the import of British-designed diesel engines, but this soon moved through CKD assembly, finally to full production. Such was the change in business, that the engine was exported back to the UK to be used in the Carbodies version of the ubiquitous FX4 taxi-cab.

In 1983, government policy on car production was relaxed and Standard entered into negotiations with BL to produce a version of the Rover SD1. 1985 saw its launch, but thanks to a dire market performance, the show was over by 1988.

Some Standard models

Standard Herald1961-1970India’s version of what was intended to be the Triumph Torch appeared just one year after its launch in the UK.More…
Standard Gazel1971-1977The Gazel replaced the Standard Herald in the local market. Both these models differed from Heralds built in the UK in that they were based on a 4-door prototype dating from 1960. The Gazel was restyled front and rear, losing the Herald’s distinctive fins in the process; a 5-door estate model was also available.More…
Standard 20001985-1988In 1985 Standard resumed car production after ten years building vans and trucks. The 2000 used a reworked version of an ancient 2061cc Standard engine producing just 85bhp. Aimed squarely at India’s rich businessmen, it was quite well equipped, but lasted only until 1988.More…

Keith Adams

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