Automatic transmission the way forward: Maruti

Celerio selling well, automatic variants of Alto, Wagon R on way; other car-makers following suit

India's largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India has said it expects every second new car sold in the country to be an automatic car in the next 6-7 years.

Earlier this year the company launched an automatic manual transmission (AMT) version in its small car Celerio that has received a good response and commands a waiting period of over 4 months. The company is planning to launch more such versions in its other mass market cars like Alto and Wagon R. Recently Tata Motors also launched an automatic manual transmission version in its Zest sedan while Mahindra is also developing a similar variant for its entry level compact SUV Quanto.

"We expect every second new car sold in India would be an automatic vehicle in the next 6-7 years," said Mayank Pareek, executive officer, sales and marketing, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. "Many people within Maruti were sceptical about the Celerio's prospects when we launched it in February. We had set a target of the AMT version accounting for 20-25% of overall sales. Instead, it is at 40% now and commands a waiting period. In future more models would come with this technology and the share is bound to grow."

Though automatic transmission makes driving easy in congested traffic conditions, traditionally, Indian consumers have stayed away from it due to the higher price and lower fuel economy. For instance, the automatic version of the Honda Brio, costs 77,400 more and is around 15% less fuel efficient than its manual transmission version.

With an AMT gearbox, which is a less sophisticated technology — making it more cost and fuel efficient — Maruti has been able to cut this price difference to less than half at 38,125.