The legacy of Suzuki Mehran
When I heard Mr Ratan Tata introducing the Nano, I was surprised to hear that he cared about the people so much that he built a car just for them. But Tata was not the first person who took an oath to provide a car to people, who either use public transport, or motorcycles that will protect them from the scorching rays of sun or rain or dust or the rich-blind-drunk-drivers who want to kill you.
Visitors with vision
Years ago some clean shaved kind hearted Japanese men come down to Karachi – better known as the ‘city of no-lights’ located in the ‘country of no-lights’ with the same aim as Tata. In 1982 Awami Auto Limited began the production of the Suzuki SS80 or Suzuki FX as we call it and the very next year Awami Autos Ltd was renamed Pak Suzuki Motor Company Ltd which in 1988 ceased the production of FX and brought in the second generation Suzuki Alto which in Pakistan is called Mehran.
I would like to make one thing very clear that when we talk about new generation or new models of cars, we expect the whole car including its design, safety standards, engine, fuel mileage, comfort, drive, etc to be upgraded to newer technological standards. However, nothing like the aforesaid happens here.
The Mehran which we have today is one of the only cars in the whole world which to this date uses a carburetor engine. The SS80 FX is basically the name of the engine which was developed by Suzuki in the early 80’s. The very same engine is used in the Mehran.
How the Mehran began
Mehran was a cheap car initially when launched in Pakistan with comfortable seating for five skinny family member, five gears with their lever, a steering, plastic dashboard and panels, four tires, two front and two rear lights, a horn (which is a necessity in our traffic!), two front disc brakes and two rear drum brakes, windows, pair of bumpers one for the front and the other for the rear and last but not the least – the 796cc engine from the past which is a blast.
It is by far still the cheapest car to maintain (although it did not remain the cheapest car to buy due to the economic situation.)
I hear owners of Corollas and Civics complain each morning that their side-view mirrors were stolen for the third time and that they are expensive. The owners of Mehran however fly by in their cars since many don’t care whether their car has them or not! Most people don’t need them and even if they do have them, they don’t use them. In case someone wanted to use them, they only cost around Rs40.
Low fuel costs
The ultimate attraction for the buyer is the amazing fuel mileage. I have met people who say that they fill their Mehran’s with fuel after a set number of days, not through how much the cars been driven or what the meter shows. How cool is that?
Especially for students and people who earn under Rs 20,000 per month. Unlike the Civic or Corolla, assume that your car breaks down in the mountains where there is no reception available, even if you do find a mechanic, there is no guarantee that he would know how to fix your car unless it’s a Mehran. It is a fact that it is indeed the cheapest and easiest car to fix with everyone claiming to know how to fix it.
The resale value of Mehran is pretty impressive. Hard cash as many would say. A Mehran in mint condition (or not), will sell since there are buyers of every kind looking out for them. Most households want a Mehran to just buy groceries and fetch the kids from the school.
One could say that one buys the Mehran as if it is a faithful friend due to its natural elements. The Mehran is a tool which everyone likes to keep. Hence the legacy of Mehran shall live on with its presence on the roads of Pakistan undisputed and justified – except its price.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.