Market Watch
Politics and Nation

End of Premier Padmini taxis' journey: It is time to say goodbye to Mumbai's once most loved car

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End of the road
It’s the end of the road for the Premier Padmini taxi. The iconic Indo-Italian model that was once more popular than pizza in Bombay will be phased out soon — with production having stopped in 2000, there are fewer than 50 of them sputtering around awaiting their D-day of June 2020.
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Evolution of the name
An indigenised version of the Fiat 1100, the car debuted as Fiat 1100 Delight in 1964. In 1965, its name was changed to Premier President, and in 1974 it became the Premier Padmini — named after the legendary Indian queen. For the next three decades, it virtually ruled the roads.
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Once a star
One will rarely encounter a Padmini on the city’s streets today, says historian Deepak Rao, reminiscing about his comfortable rides in this cab.

Sources said the Mumbai authorities had in the 1960s opted for the Padmini over the bulkier Hindustan Motors’ Ambassador, which was then very popular in Kolkata and Delhi. “It (Padmini) was a simple compact car, but every citizen here was proud of it,” recalled Rao. It became so popular in the ’70s and ’80s that it took the taxi trade by storm in the ’90s when a record 63,200 kaali-peeli taxis were registered with state transport department.
"Excellent navigators"Getty Images
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"Excellent navigators"
For any new visitor who landed at the airport, the first impression of the city was through a comfortable ride in a Padmini taxi which had enough luggage space in the boot and also on the carrier above. A Parel resident recalled, “For any trip be it personal or professional — I would always hail a Padmini taxi as these drivers were excellent navigators.”
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Oldtimers
Most drivers were oldtimers, who have had a long association with the taxi trade, they followed traffic rules and did not honk much. One such driver, was emotionally attached to his Padmini taxi. “We always got a word of praise from commuters who found these cabs comfortable in terms of good leg space, suspension and also ride quality.”
Giving way to other carsGetty Images
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Giving way to other cars
Mumbai Taximen’s Union leader A L Quadros, who now heads a union of cabbies who ply anything but a Padmini, admits that these taxis had done a “fantastic job and served millions of commuters over the years”. The Padmini model has now given way to other car versions. The Santro model took the lead with 80% share for kaalipeeli taxis while Wagon-Rs comprsie 10%, i10s 4% and the rest are made up of Eecos, Omnis, Altos, Ritzs, etc.
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