Maruti Suzuki hits top gear in automatics

S Ronendra Singh New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018

Sales of such cars double; Hyundai too plans to launch tech in select models

Although the Indian market is not mature enough for automatic gear shift (AGS) in cars, the year 2015 was important for the country’s largest passenger car manufacturer, Maruti Suzuki India (MSIL), in terms of expanding its portfolio in pedal shift gears or automatic transmission (AT).

After the success of Celerio and Alto K-10, MSIL has expanded automatic gear shift in two models — Wagon R and Dzire (diesel) recently. The auto major offers the two-pedal shift options in six models, including Alto K10, WagonR, Celerio, Dzire, Ciaz and Baleno.

In terms of numbers, MSIL almost doubled the sales of these cars in the last financial year to over 54,000 units, compared with over 30,000 units in 2014-15, the company said. The reason behind MSIL gaining the numbers for such cars is that it was one of the first companies to introduce AGS technology in its ‘mini’ segment, such as A-Star, four years ago.

Thereon, it continued its journey and introduced the technology in Celerio, when it was launched.

The popularity of AGS caught on because of its affordability, fuel efficiency, which is on par with manual transmission, and convenience of city driving.

CV Raman, Executive Director, Research & Development, MSIL, told BusinessLine: “The two-pedal technology is something that has latent demand. But, for India we thought we should have something different and affordable. For example, there is a difference of ₹40,000 with respect to manual transmission (MT) in our cars and at the same time AGS or AT gives mileage on par with the MTs,”

He said there is a lot of potential in such technologies in future and MSIL was already seeing that traction. As a result, the company is increasing its capacity to one lakh units for such cars.

MSIL also plans to introduce the two-pedal technology in its models across segments in some form — AGS, AT or CVT (continuously variable transmission) — over the next few years. The company launched CVT in Baleno last week.

However, not many companies want to follow MSIL right now, as they feel customer awareness is more important at the moment.

Hyundai’s volume game

The country’s second largest passenger car manufacturer, Hyundai Motor India (HMIL), believes in the volume game for such technology.

“In India, still around 95 per cent of the volumes come from manual transmission. AMT is making a presence and we are also studying it. But, we believe the market today is still not mature toward AMT,” Rakesh Srivastava, Senior Vice-President Sales and Marketing, HMIL, said.

Hyundai plans to soon launch AMT in some of its flagship models such as Creta AMT in petrol and i20 Elite. It already has AMT in the diesel variant of the Creta SUV.

“Now the Creta will come with the automatic transmission in petrol. It’s on the cards (most probably next month). We are also looking at introducing AMT in Elite i20 as well in a later stage (after Creta petrol automatic),” he added.

According to a recent report by Nielsen and Frost & Sullivan, the number of automatic cars sold in India has jumped from less than a lakh in 2013 to around 1.65 lakh last year, and is expected to hit five-lakh (half a million) by 2020.

Apart from MSIL and HMIL, the volumes in the future would also come from companies such as Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra.

Published on April 12, 2016

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