Chhabria, the founder of DC Designs, was arrested by the Mumbai police on December 28, 2020 allegedly for cheating and defrauding car buyers and financiers, and the man who changed the face of automobile design in this part of the world since the early 1990s is now languishing in a city jail.
But the final blow to what was his biggest, boldest dream was when a DC Avanti customer from Tamil Nadu claimed to have found his prized possession already registered in someone else’s name in Haryana and was also hypothecated twice.
This happened soon after the comedian Kapil Sharma moved the economic offences wing of the city police complaining that despite paying full amount for a vanity van long ago, Chhabria did not deliver the van.
As per the joint police commissioner (crime) Milind Bharambe, the police have found that nearly 90 DC Avantis were used for fraudulent financing by availing multiple loans on the same car and they peg the scam at around Rs 100 crore. The police have also found most of these 90 vehicles were registered with two or at times three RTOs in various states.
For the uninitiated, Avanti in Italian means ‘‘forward’’ and launching DC Avanti was meant to be his fast forward move. But fate had it differently.
The car, billed as the first Indian sports car, was unveiled by Amitabh Bachchan at the 2012 Auto Expo in New Delhi and it hit the road in 2015 after being in the making since 2008.
Though the car had adequate ground clearance compared to the Italian namesake and had a killer pricing at just about Rs 42 lakh, it failed on many grounds in terms of performance and this had sales not picking up as expected. All he could manage was to sell 120-odd cars.
Chhabria set up DC Designs way back in 1993, bringing a whiff of fresh air after securing a degree from the Art Centre College of Design in Pasadena in California, the Mecca of auto design, to offer design and prototyping services to auto firms and customers. His timing was so perfect as he launched himself into what was then an unknown territory called automobile designing in a market that had no choice except a Maruti, Premier Padmini and Ambassador.
One of his initial successes was his modification on a Maruti Gypsy which he christened as BTS (Better than Sex), earning him wide publicity and making him the go-to guy for auto design.
Soon Chhabria was going places and he made personal history -- in January 2003, the stunning prototype of the V8 Vantage that he developed for the British supercar maker Aston Martin was on display at the Detroit Motor Show!
But all that is history and a new history is being made in the jail today.