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– In California, it can be tough being a car enthusiast. You’ve got smog checks, carb compliance restrictions on what modifications you’re allowed to perform. It can be pretty demoralizing seeing what’s allowed in other States, but not mine. But what if you lived in a place where you couldn’t make any modifications to your car at all? Not even paint.
– [Officer} your vehicle paint color is Unauthorized. Well, that’s exactly the kind of law that passed in India. Two years ago. Can car people enjoy cars if they can’t modify them? I reached out to some big time car enthusiasts in India to see how they cope with such a restrictive law.
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– Start the show already, Nolan. – I gotta get out of here So before we get into India’s controversial law banning car modification. Let’s set the scene for the Indian automotive world.
For those of you that don’t know which unless you’re one of our Indian fans is probably all of you. Now, you can’t accurately research a community from 13 times zones away. So I called in some auto enthusiasts, just like me over in India to hear straight from the source. One of them is Vikas Yogi a writer for the Hindi automotive site, India car news. They’ve been covering the Indian car market for years. – The whole car scene modification meaning getting those big cars and sports cars and stuff. It’s been a privileged thing. So it has always been limited to people who can afford it and do it. But for most people for majority of people, there are economic constraints. – Car ownership in India is often a necessity but also carries a high cost. You need a car to get you to work and back but you aren’t looking to spend more than is necessary. That sounds like a lot of places, America included but what hits the Indian market The hardest is their important duty tax. In order to sell a car that was not made in India and manufacturer must pay up to a hundred percent import duty.
So immediately the price of any car not made in India doubles. Because of this, plenty of manufacturers don’t even bother sending their sports cars to India. India never got the MR2, or the S 2000, the Sylvia the Evo, the WRX, the Camaro, the Corvette, or the charger just to name a few. But despite the tax some global market cars do make it to India. BMW M2’s, Porsche’s, GTRs. And even the 5.0 Mustang are all available at a big premium. These are called CBU cars or complete built units. Basically it means the car was completely built outside of India, but there was a different kind of car. The CKD or complete knockdown unit. Apart from being an awesome name for a hardcore band, complete knockdown unit is a car that is assembled in India. Even though the components were made elsewhere. CKD’s are subject to a lower tax as low as 15%. So even though manufacturers have to build an assembly plant in India to make a CKD car, they can still save money with these market specific cars. Cars like the renault fluence, the Jaguar XJ and the land Rover evoke all have assembly plants in India.
For many automakers, the process of getting even one model into the Indian market as a CKD or CBU is an ordeal. And with sporty cars having such tight margins already it took quite a while for some of the quicker cars to make it to the Indian market. For example, in the 2000s India didn’t get the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo but didn’t get the Mitsubishi Lancer Sedia. Which was a slightly de-tuned version of a normal Lancer. At first, these Indian market offerings were not at all impressive, but as time went on more and more fun cars started to pop up. Especially in the hot hatch segment. Nowadays, the Fiat Punto Abarth is one of the hottest cars in the Indian car scene with its two-tone paint. The scorpion cloud version of the Punto does zero to 60 in 8.8 seconds and is built in run Jungian in Maharashtra India. If I mispronounced that, I’m very sorry. The BW polo is another go-to hatch in India and the Skoda Octavia RS two 45 is a rowdy four-door that’s keeping up with the golf GTI looks awesome. I’d be stoked to drive any of these cars.
The skoda definitely looks really sick. With dedicated sports cars tough to find or expensive to import.
This sounds like a super ripe environment that would get people modifying their cheaper cars. – So there are people who are looking for a regular car getting it modified to a proper modification company. So they, they get a regular car maybe say a Foxtrot in Polish is pretty popular here. They’ll get a proton polo because it has it already handled, you know much better than most cars, most hotspots in India.
– In a very similar fashion to the United States, different regions of India develop different automotive preferences over the past few decades. The Northern region with close access to the Himalayas, got super into four by fours. And off-roading out of necessity. Cars like the Toyota for tuner and SUV built on the highlights platform are extremely popular for being daily drivers with a bit of four by four wheeling capability. Contrast that with Southern India, where they often have better roads. The scene skewed towards tuning and street racing.
Modified Honda city type twos, and Skoda Octavia’s rip around on these super smooth streets. Then in major cities like Mumbai and Delhi where most of India’s rich people live, you have the super car scene and plenty of people with cash to burn on importing a car. Porsche’s, Ferrari’s, and Mercedes can be seen cruising around but not just what we in the US think of us Super cars.
Imports like the Dodge demon are hot ticket items as well. It’s kind of weird to think of a Dodge as an import. Importing a car in any country as a lengthy and expensive process. And that’s no different in India but apart from the high cost associated with it, import laws are actually pretty chill compared to the US. In America we have a 25 year import rule that States no vehicle from outside. The US domestic market can be imported until the car is 25 years old. This has put a ticking clock on many beloved JDM and Euro cars.
I personally got my calendar marked for 2024 when I can import it in S15. But surprisingly India doesn’t have such a rule. As long as the car meets emission standards and is right-hand drive, there’s not much else that stops you from importing R34’s, Holdens and JZ X one hundreds.
– Mostly there are not many borders in India. Basically we have the traditional way of of getting the vehicles.
When you have the manufacturer set up in shop here you can contact them and you know they’ll facilitate this whole thing – But don’t go thinking that India is chock full of rare imports. Car nerds are still a very small portion of the 1.3 billion people that live and work in India.
We who love cars aren’t the majority of consumers in any market. And as a result the most popular cars in India are local offerings. Maruti Suzuki is an Indian branch of the Suzuki motor company. And by 1996, they had a 60% share of the Indian car market. Today cars like the Maruti Swift Merde Alto and Marie Bellino are the top selling cars in India. And India’s manufacturing is not just an echo chamber of India only cars in 2008, Indian manufacturer Tata motors bought Jaguar and land Rover Concorde. And by 2011 India had become the sixth largest car manufacturer in the world.
India is high import duty and large market meant it made sense to build up manufacturing in India. And once you’ve got a manufacturing plant you might as well use it. Today India makes over $1 billion in revenue from the U S domestic market in parts and vehicles. Fords Eco sport is a crossover maiden India design based on what the Indian market dictated and is now being sold here in the US.
The auto industry in India has been growing stronger and stronger. While most performance cars are still expensive. Economy boxes with go-cart handling and four by fours with some off-road chops are easy to find. And if you want a cool car but you can’t buy one, you can make it yourself. Or at least you could until two years ago. In January of 2019, the Supreme court of India passed a law ruling, Any modification that takes a car out of OEM spec AKA stock is considered illegal (loud screaming) So not just engine swapsand turbos. You want wider tires? Banned. You want coil overs? Banned.
You want to plastic dip your car? You mega-banned.
– Oh, police car can stop you for anything. Even if it’s a race trip that you have on your bonnet. Its not allowed because the modifications of any sort, basic customization, anything of that sort.
– The Supreme court decided that this law was made in the name of quote road safety and the protection of the environment. Look, I don’t want to vilify anyone. And I know that they aren’t just making this rule just to be jerks but it feels like the kind of blanket statement that comes from a lack of understanding of what is being regulated. Its like when your mom tells you to pause your game and come down to dinner, and then you tell her for the 100th time that you can’t pause it because it’s a multiplayer game.
And it’ll only be another two minutes because I suck and I’ll get killed soon enough. True story. That being said, I can understand the reasoning behind it. With more people in India, buying cars every year. Mods could have a huge effect on your quality of life. Imagine if 500 million people installed straight exhaust in their car. No thank you. I don’t want to live there either. This no mods law is pretty harsh on paper, and the actual penalty is enough to get your car’s registration taken away. But every major hub of car culture has had an era of outrunning the law. Think of two gay running, the moonshine runners low riders, check out the past gas on that by the way. Car culture has never been slowed down by laws. And while I’m not condoning any rule breaking I think it’s safe to say that the Indian car scene will thrive even with this oversight. In fact, I ran a quick anonymous poll by the doughnut staff and more than half of us wouldn’t technically pass an inspection here if a cop pulled us over.
For shame, co-workers. I definitely don’t have any illegal mods on my car. No way. (engine revving) I can only imagine the car enthusiast of India the same way. The more I learned about an automotive world oceans away, the more I got to appreciate how much cars give us so much interest. – We absolutely love pony cars. Mustang has always had great influence, I think across the world.
So has an India. So mustang has been that one car that everybody wants to own. It’s one car that I want to own. So when I was driving it in my city, the most amount of attraction or eyeballs this vehicle got, I don’t think any vehicle has ever received that sort of appreciation or that sort of, you know, love. – I know that oftentimes we all get caught up in our own little bubbles of the car rules. So it’s nice to reach out and get to chat with people who love the same things we do.
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