Like many in officialdom,the Army no longer considers Ambassadors a sign of regalia. It plans to pull those distinctive black Ambys with funny number plates to close ranks with bureaucrats who have already switched their cars.
The Armys move comes after the Department of Expenditure included the Maruti SX4 in the list of approved models of staff car in June 2009. And last month,the Army sought the Finance Ministrys permission to replace all 381 Ambassadors that it owns by SX4s to ferry officers of the rank of Major General and above.
The Ambassador its earlier avatars was Hindustan and Landmaster was taken off the staff car list in August 1995 but brought back in March 1996 after Hindustan Motors introduced the fuel-efficient Ambassador ISZ variant.
Since then,it has undergone minor changes with new models rolling off the assembly line in Uttarpara near Kolkata. Though the SX4 is not the most fuel-efficient car,the Armys reasoning is that the machine scores on better technology. But with no comparisons backing this claim,the Army has been told to conduct user trials of SX4 to establish its merits,mainly fuel mileage vis-à-vis the Ambassador,to counterbalance the extra burden of Rs 8.4 crore for replacing the entire fleet.
Sources said the proposal is expected to go through based on the SX4s fuel efficiency,and soon the Navy and the Air Force are also expected to retire their white and blue Ambassadors.