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Learning in auto mode

Murali Gopalan | Updated on January 17, 2018

Getting familiar Simulators help students get used to an automatic car

Maruti kicks off driving classes for gear-less cars

On the face of it, handling a gear-less car seems like child’s play especially when there is no clutch to contend with.

From Hena Kausar’s point of view, however, there is more to this which explains why there are now training sessions in place for those keen on driving automatics. The AGM of Maruti Suzuki plays a key role in this business model which has over the years mushroomed into 364 Maruti Driving Schools across 183 cities.

Kausar believes that training is the need of the hour for automatics though it seems simple and straightforward. Sure, the two-pedal option is far more comfortable compared to the more tedious manual transmission but it is not as if it is a walk in the park either.

“We have now begun training in automatics where Maruti has made a lot of inroads. Training has, otherwise, been traditionally focused on manual transmissions,” says Kausar. In most classes, it is the Celerio AMT that is used, the car that paved the way for Maruti’s gearless wave. Since then, the company has expanded this option to include the Wagon R, Alto K-10, DZire, Baleno and Ertiga.

Kausar is pleasantly surprised by the response to the gear-less driving course. “We were quite sceptical about people in smaller towns showing interest in automatics and thought this would largely be confined to big cities like Delhi and Mumbai,” she adds .

However, be it Meerut or Coimbatore, potential students are queuing up to understand what it takes to drive automatics. What is even more interesting is that some of them have never heard of this concept but are nevertheless keen on finding out more. Kausar adds that men are as enthusiastic about women to attend these classes, a welcome change in gender attitudes across India.

Perhaps, a part of this interest has been triggered by the scooter revolution where Honda Activa leads the way. Till some years ago, gear-less scooters were not seen to be as macho as motorcycles but the realities of traffic and growing urbanisation have led to both women and men opting for them.

In the case of Maruti, the gear-less driving programme also incorporates tips in manual transmission to keep the content a lot more wholesome. Interestingly, there are people who are already familiar with automatics thanks to work stints abroad but still need a little time to get used to the Indian setting.

Kausar says students also include two-wheeler riders in the 18-25 years age group who would rather graduate to a gear-less car. She reiterates that it is as important to keep trainers abreast of latest trends in safety so that these can be passed on to students. In addition, issues like road rage and respect to older drivers and women become part of the exercise.

Traditionally, the Maruti Driving School course is a 21-day training period which combines theory and practical work. Simulators help students get used to a car first before they are allowed actual control behind the wheel.

The schools are dealer-led initiatives which do their bit in enhancing safety on our killer roads which account for over 150,000 deaths every year. It also puts in context why more and more people are now queuing up for automatics quite unlike the not-so-distant past when they were shunned due to fears of poor mileage.

During the last five years, the boom in these driving schools has been more pronounced in the west and south. “I think at least 200 schools have cropped up across the country,” says Kausar. Going forward, this number could double with smaller towns emerging as big markets.

Published on August 25, 2016

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