As an Indian, I am required to know everything there is to know about the Maruti 800, and of course, the Hindustan Ambassador. In fact, I learned to drive in India and a manual in an 800, so it's a car that's near and dear to my heart, and many individuals in my extended family have had one at some point, only to quickly sell them and get something much better (read: anything better than an Alto) once they had the money to escape the "cheapest" car stigma.
Age Group: Every age group you can possibly think of from a young recent college graduate who found a stable, well-paying job out of school to a retired farmer/office man who has decided that now is the time to buy a car and explore the world, since he and his family cannot easily walk everywhere like they used to. 800s are surprisingly popular among ex-Indian Army people as well.
Occupation: Mildly successful Indian farmer, retired office worker, old military officer, young IT professional. There's really no set profession to anyone who owned an 800, especially as there were little alternatives for a large portion of the time these were produced. While Ambassadors were used as taxis, and Hindustan Contessas were used as something "more prestigious"
Residence: You will find these anywhere in India. Even in the poshest of neighborhoods. Even in the most remote of areas. Anyone who needs a car will always consider an 800 since, like the Ambassador, they have become fairly rugged and drive through almost any road.
Leased or Bought: Bought, because no Indian dealer will lease a car that costs only $5,000, or a little over 200,000 rupees. And no Indian will bother leasing since he or she knows they'd effectively have paid for more than half the car in three years.
Intended Use for Car: To drive around the family on long trips because you've gotten sick of public transport and getting a taxi and a driver has become too expensive. And sometimes when transport workers are on strike, there'll be the means to commute places. Having a car is still considered very much a luxury for an 800 owner.
Actual Use for Car: As above. People who buy Maruti 800s are very practical people. They'll have either a scooter or a motorbike to use, since it gets much better mileage. The car is for long trips, or at other points when it's most convenient. For the most part, the 800 is in the driveway underneath a car cover to keep it clean.
Attitude Towards Maintenance: Religious. The car was a major investment for an 800 owner, and they will do anything to make sure that it's ready to go whenever they need it. And getting emergency service from a roadside shade-tree mechanic is expensive.
Car They Wish They Had: Maybe an Alto, but seriously any car that's larger and more powerful than the 800 will do, as long as it gets good mileage (since fuel is expensive), and can be maintained anywhere in the country. Remember, Audi probably has less than 15 dealers in India, a country of one billion people.
Car They'll Recommend to Others: Something beyond an 800, because the 800 does tend to have the cheap car stigma (but nowhere near as much as the Tata Nano). It'll most likely be an Alto K10, since it's more powerful and a newer design. They also might ask to borrow it from them at some point.
Car They'll Want at the Rental Counter: People who buy Maruti 800s probably can't afford to rent cars. They'll perhaps take a bus, taxi, or an autorickshaw to their destination.
Driver Profiles is a recurring feature on Clunkerture. Anyone is free to create their own Driver Profiles from this form, since I'm not qualified to write profiles on some car owners, like the people who run Pontiac Fieros and Alfa Romeo Breras. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like your piece to be featured.
Photo Credit: Maruti Udyog