Gone are the days when an automatic transmission was the monopoly of premium luxury sedans. And why only auto transmission, most of the modern technologies and features that were earlier the trademark of high-end sedans have now found their way into the hatchback cars. Premium compact cars are now proud beings as they are enjoying their long stay on the top selling list.
And now premium compact cars including Maruti Suzuki A-Star, Volkswagen Polo, Nissan Micra and Honda Jazz, are all set to be launched in automatic transmission variants. Hyundai launched its i10 in automatic transmission about a year ago and the company has received an amazing response from the crowd. Maruti Suzuki does not want to be left behind and will launch an automatic transmission variant of its hatchback A-Star in the next few weeks.
“A-Star is a trendy car for the young and the automatic transmission would help to capture the top-end of small car market,” a senior executive at Maruti Suzuki said while he requested to remain anonymous.
Automatic transmission (AT) cars do not have the clutch pedal, as there is no need to change gears manually. The AT offers a smooth and effortless driving experience, but consumes more fuel the manual geared cars.
Volkswagen Polo, Nissan Micra and Honda Jazz are speculated to be launched in AT variants, company officials have said. The four-speed automatic gear A-Star would come at a premium over the current top-end version that has a price tag of Rs.3,52,380 (Ex-Showroom Price New Delhi ). Hyundai has priced its i10 automatic in the range of Rs 4.5-5.3 lakh for different variants, which is around 15% more than its manual variant.
Auto analysts believe that these cars will find a good fan following despite their premium price tag. “In the next few years, India should be in the league of developed markets where automatic transmissions have double-digit market share of the car market,” said Abdul Majeed, auto practice leader at Price Waterhouse Coopers.
Automatic transmission across all segments constitutes a meager 2%, or around 30,000-35,000 units in the 1.5-million strong passenger car market in India.
The statistic is quite staggering when it comes to the developed markets. Almost a third of all cars sold in the US have an automatic transmission. The success of premium hatchbacks such as Hyundai i20 and Maruti Swift, which come with all the frills such as anti-lock braking system (ABS), airbags and alloy wheels, that has prompted car makers to add automatic transmission to their small cars.
So far, the automatic transmission technology had been mostly limited to premium sedans as it is expensive. The Indian car market has been doing phenomenal with a majority of customers for Honda Civic, Toyota Camry, Skoda Laura and Skoda Superb choosing the automatic variants over the manual ones.