Premier Automobiles Limited is a Mumbai-based manufacturer of vehicles.
Founded in 1944, the car first launched production by building vehicles under license from Dodge and Plymouth. In 1951, they began producing versions of the Fiat 500 for the Indian market. This was followed by the Fiat 1100 in 1954. In 1973, the Premier name was used on their vehicles for the first time, the Premier President, based on the Fiat 1100 as Premier Padmini. In 1978, they launched the Fiat 124-based Premier 118 and 138D models. In 2000, they launched production, under license from Taiwan's China Motor Corporation, of the Premier Sigma and Roadster vans and pick-ups.
Premier Automobiles is an Indian automaker which flourished in the so called 'sudhakar'- bribe - licence- monopoly period from the 1950s till the early 1990s when India was closed to the world and imports. The company was established in 1944 as a result of successful negotiations with Chrysler Corporation in 1939, resulting in licenses to build a Plymouth car and a Dodge truck, sold under the Dodge, Plymouth, DeSoto, and Fargo names starting around 1949. In the early years, quality was considered good by both Chrysler and the Indian Department of Defense. In 1949, parts were being made in India, starting with simpler components and gradually building up to more complex pieces. Two companies made parts: Premier and Hindustan Motors of Calcutta. The early years of Premier and Hindustan were marked by very low sales, due to the size of the market; only about 20,000 vehicles per year were made in India, in 65 different models. To prevent foreign companies from dominating by mass-producing parts to be assembled into cars in India, the government set up steep import duties on imported parts in 1954, allowing Indian parts-makers to survive.
Premier also made a licensed version of the Fiat 1100 which later continued almost unchanged into the late 1990s as the Premier Padmini with a 40 hp (30 kW) 1100 cc engine. Later models included the Premier 118NE (named after its 1180 cc Nissan A engine and transmission from the Nissan Cherry), a version of the 1960s Fiat 124, considered a luxury car in India till the influx of modern cars in the 1990s.
With market liberalisation Premier tied up with Peugeot to build the Peugeot 309 in India. Initial demand was high but labour problems and poor dealer service led to problems which were compounded when Premier also tied up with old partners Fiat to manufacture the Fiat Uno. Peugeot pulled out of the venture around 2001 with only a few thousand cars sold. Labour and service issues also plagued the Fiat venture and a massive strike finally caused the plant to shut around 2001 with Fiat left to fend for itself with its reputation marred. Not only Fiat, but also the Premier Automobiles Ltd., faced severe criticism in media. There were various criminal cases against its promoters. The Consumer Courts of India were flooded with complaints for non-refund of the car booking. The Promoters of Premier Automobiles have also been confronted with Criminal cases in various consumer courts of India under section 27 of Consumer Protection Act. A customer Association based at Gujarat - Rajkot called Pal Car Customer Association has made various representations against the Premier Automobiles Ltd. CNBC channel also aired an interview under the crime story program called "UNCOVERED".
In November 2004 Premier restarted operations by building a small diesel powered van called the Sigma mainly for the taxi market. It is based on an old 1980s Mitsubishi Varica design licenced from China Motor in Taiwan, with the Peugeot engine from the 309. The Premier Roadstar is meeting commercial needs across India.
- Premier Sigma (a compact diesel MPV)
- Premier Roadstar (a compact diesel pickup/commercial trucks)
- Premier Lifeline (an ambulance based on Sigma Platform)
Ketan Parekh and Chirag Barot travelled 25 states all over India in 21 days driving a Premier Diesel, spiralling up mountains and through deserts, sometimes touching speeds of 130 km/h (81 mph) at a average mileage of 18.5 km/L (52 mpg-imp/44 mpg-US).
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