For several decades now, black Ambassador cars have been synonymous with taxis at the Chennai Airport. However, now the cars that were once deemed reliable are making way for newer and more swanky sedans, specifically the Swift Dzire from Maruti Suzuki and Etios from Toyota.

Till April this year, 300 Ambassador taxis were running in and out of the airport. Now, about 140 of those vehicles have been replaced by Swift Dzire-2 models. Come January, that number of the old faithful is likely to go down further.

“Nearly 25 drivers plan to switch to Swift from Ambassador next month. Gradually, Ambassadors will become a rare sight at the airport,” says C. Murugesan, joint secretary of the Chennai Airport Prepaid Taxi Owners-Drivers Association.

Though the Ambassadors have a novelty factor as they are seen as quaint, Swift Dzire-2 has become a preferred choice for customers, drivers say.

Shafi Ahmed, (43), a driver at the airport for the last ten years, who recently bought Swift Dzire-2, said, “Of late, passengers seem to prefer newer car. I used to make about Rs.1,500 with the Ambassador and this has increased to Rs. 2, 500 with Swift.”

Better air-conditioning and extra legroom are some of the reasons why passengers take to the new car.

“Probably, one in a hundred people take Ambassador — most of whom are senior citizens and foreigners. Though there are newer models of Ambassador, there are not many takers for those,” said K. Ganesan, who has been a taxi driver for ten years.

The modern cars give better mileage too. “While a new model of Ambassador gives about 19 km, Swift can offer up to 23 km,” said D. Raj, another driver.

Mr. Murugesan said that they are also trying to get permission to change the colour of the taxis and also bring in Etios, the sedan from Toyota. “Some people don’t like black vehicles; we want to have another colour, for instance, yellow or white,” he said.

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