How & why I tracked down & bought back my 2012 Maruti Alto

Our Alto K10 has been to 19 states in India and twice to Bhutan during this period. I doubt if any other car, used or new would give us as much joy as this.

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Let me tell you a story which I have been meaning to tell for a month now. I bought my Alto K10 VXi in 2012 when we were looking for our first car. Our daughter was born a year before and we had moved to Bangalore two years back. After shortlisting the Honda Brio, the Chevy Beat and of course, the K10, it was a close run between the Honda and the Alto. The latter won out as the Honda dealership played hard to get the final deal, while Leo Motors Indiranagar, the MS dealership, made the purchase affair very special. I even penned down the initial ownership review below, even though I was too lazy to keep updating it!

The little Alto had been our constant companion since then, doing everything from city commutes to long drives without breaking a sweat. This was 2012 and the K10 was no ordinary alto. It punched above its weight with its sweet one-litre K Series engine. The interiors were spartan and cramped, but the rock-solid reliability and go-anywhere ability of the car more than made up for it. As a family, we are always looking to explore places, and our little Alto took us everywhere, from Kerala and Wayanad (also in Kerala!) to a mega cross-country safari to Kanha in MP and Tadoba in Maharashtra to destinations within Karnataka and indeed, other states in South India. She took us to Goa, Vizag and other destinations which I wish I had written logs of. When we moved to Kolkata, I drove her down in an epic (for me at least!) almost 2000 km journey. During her stint in the city of joy, she took us to the Himalayas on five occasions: twice to Bhutan, once to Assam and Meghalaya, once to the Queen of the hills, Darjeeling and of course, to the legendary Silk Route in Sikkim

Never say never again

As the saying goes, all good things come to an end, and when we were set to move out of the country in 2022, it was time to bid adieu to our car. She had done 88000 odd kms at the time after having been everywhere from the beaches of Kerala to the high Himalayan passes and everything in between. She was still running on her stock clutch and suspension, with 100 W halogens running on relays being the only modification made. She still ran like new when we saw her off for the last time, or so we thought!

Ghar wapsi

Life has a way of springing surprises of the kind you least expect. We moved out of India lock stock and barrel, expecting to be away for a really long time. Therefore, when we were back home in a few month’s time, we were left really unprepared, including the absence of 4 wheels, something which almost defined who I am. So along with picking up the other pieces of what makes a household, I was again back in the market for a new ride.

Back to square one

Covid has changed human society in many ways, several of them for good. Certain decisions by the custodians of global finances (read reckless money printing) had put prices of everything, from daal to diamonds on the boil. I did a quick scan of what was available new and my reluctance to splurge in addition to what I was getting at inflated prices left me cold. I bought our first car new but that was in 2012. Ten years had passed by, and countless hours spent on team bhp had made me an expert on the virtues of buying a used car, at least on paper anyway. So I started burning the midnight oil, reading through reams of webpages of auto classifieds. I quickly realized that used prices were suffering from an acute case of schizophrenia; why lag behind when you can command 90% of the price when buying new for a new 5-year-old car…and still get it! After a month of looking, I had done enough research and recons to be able to write this on bhp However, I had nothing to show for my efforts. In the meanwhile, my mind kept going back to my little Alto. I received a text when I was abroad from Mandovi Motors Maruti with details on work carried out on the Alto by the new owner. I realized that while the car was sold and the ownership was transferred, MSIL still carried my contact details in their records. This appeared irrelevant at the time but was to prove crucial; more on that later. The Alto started appearing in my dreams and I would awake with a feeling of the car still with me, just for a fleeting moment before reality barged in rudely. I could not help but entertain the thought which had taken root and was growing stronger every moment

“Sometimes, you go back to move forward” – Anonymous

As I had mentioned, the little Alto was not just a car. It was and is like a family member. My daughter was one when the car rolled out of the dealership and she had practically grown up in the back seat. I had spent hours on many a Sunday morning, washing the car, and dutifully going through many rolls of microfiber. I would choose fuel pumps carefully by driving extra miles, which perhaps whittled away any gains made on petrol purity. I would change the oil when the stuff inside was still good enough for a few thousand more. Brush aside the advances of valet attendants and get to know the basement layouts of many hotels better. My alto was now sold for a little over a year. Unless I was unlucky, she would still any day be better than many of the used cars I was checking. Why not get her back?!! Of course! We discussed this at home and my daughter, now 12, was thrilled with the possibility. That was it! Now only if I could track her down and find out where she actually was…

The car whisperer

I had sold the Alto to Spinny, which made sense as we were in Kolkata at the time and the car was still registered in KA. I could not complain even though Spinny sold me 20k short, transportation charges being the excuse. Therefore, they were my first port of call in my quest to find the current owner of our little Alto. As expected, Spinny was of no help. Heck, even the chap who was the so-called Relationship Manager was no longer with the company

By this time, I had already convinced myself that getting our Alto back was the only option. In Hyderabad, where I had resumed my quest for a replacement car, owners and dealers were of the opinion that cars are an appreciating asset, and no, I was not looking for a sparingly used Innova.

Undaunted by the Spinny dead end, I dialled the mobile number listed in the service text from Mandovi Motors Bangalore which I had received inadvertently. The number belonged to the service advisor and yes, my Alto had paid a visit to the service centre almost a year back! With great trepidation and foreboding, I forced myself to ask – “were there any major repairs?” I cannot describe the feeling when he said “routine service only saar”! I knew we were in business. I requested him if he could share the contact number of the current owner and made up some cock and bull story about some pending paperwork. He obliged. I don’t think he would have believed me if I had told him the truth: that I wanted to buy back a ten-year-old Alto. I will not forget his generosity.

Armed with the contact number, it took me a week to figure out what to say when I called the current owner. I am an overthinker who dwells too much and in this case, I had never even met the guy! I half expected him to think of me as a weirdo and tell me to buzz off. Things went differently (in a good way) when I called him, however. Instead of beating around the bush, I told him about the unique place the Alto had in my family’s life. I learnt that he was using the car very sparingly and the Odo was at 92xxx, only 4 thousand kms more than where it was when I had sold. After talking about this and that, I came out and asked him, “Would you consider selling the Alto back to me?” He paused and responded “Give me some time”

I waited for 2 weeks before texting him. We exchanged messages for the following two weeks as he made up his mind. I considered the fact that while he was not driving the car much if he decided to sell the Alto back to me, he would have to go through the same hassle of finding a replacement in the used car market, much like I did. I made him an offer which was equal to what he paid for the car when he bought it from Spinny a little over a year back. My heart was racing when I visited the gentleman to seal the deal and get my car back. He had sent me pictures of the car and had also very kindly, replaced the driver-side power window motor which had given up after 10 years of service. I had changed the tyres and the battery a couple of years before I sold the car. A half turn of the ignition and the familiar music of the engine coming to life filled my ears. I eased her out onto the main road and went through the gears. My next stop? A Shell petrol pump for a full tank of course!!!

All’s well that ends well

And that ladies and gentlemen, is how my family and I were reunited with my beloved Alto K10. We parted with her when she was 88 odd thousand kms on the Odo and got her back with another 4 thousand kms added. She has run another 4 thousand km in the last two months after getting back home, with a Bangalore Hyderabad run and a trip to Chattisgarh to celebrate her homecoming and enjoy the rains. I had to replace the headlamp assembly as the sealing had given up and the front now looks as good as new. I also realized that Spinny had purloined the Pioneer HU and the headlamp relays, both of which I have since replaced. The first thing I did after collecting her was to go to an MS service centre to get her thoroughly checked. As I had estimated, all she needed was an oil change and general service!

Our Alto K10 still runs as well as she did when she rolled out of the shop and became a part of the family. She has been to 19 states in India and twice to Bhutan during this period. I doubt if any other car, used or new would give us as much joy as our little Alto does! The moral of the story is, if you have taken meticulous care of your car and there is nothing wrong with it mechanically, take a good long hard second look at her before thinking of trading her in. The model may have been discontinued, but there could be other options which you find tempting, heck, even the company may have long gone home. But a car is not just metal and plastic, it’s much more than the sum of its parts. You give her away, a part of you is lost forever.

Now for some pictures from the travelogues that I never wrote, thanks for reading!

When I thought I was bidding her goodbye!

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