Automatic transmissions have been gaining popularity in the last couple of years in India, primarily in urban areas. As a result, more carmakers are launching vehicles in the Rs sub-10 lakh segment. While the choice of technology ranges from AMT to CVT and torque converters and dual-clutch units, a noticeable change is the introduction of automatic gearboxes on diesel vehicles too. On the sideline of the Ford Freestyle launch, we caught up with Anurag Mehrotra, President & Managing Director, Ford India. He gave us an insight into the buying pattern of consumers across regions in terms of automatic transmissions.
Ford launched the new EcoSport last year and has offered an automatic option on the petrol variant from day one. The EcoSport, owing to its design and packaging primarily appeals to buyers in urban centres and hence the demand for an AT s usually higher than smaller cities. Mehrotra told us that on an average the take rate of automatic versions in the EcoSport lineup is around 20% or so. This number increases significantly to about 40% to 50% in cities such as Delhi, which is known for dense and slow-moving traffic.
Ford India is continuously looking at options to increase the automatic offering on models depending on consumer response, Mehrotra added. When asked about the possibility of introducing an automatic transmission for diesel engines, he said that the company is looking into several options and will make announcements at the right time. Responding to the chances of an auto gearbox being paired with the Freestyle engine, he said that the vehicle has just been launched and the company will take feedback from the market and will decide accordingly.
The take rate of automatics going as high as 50% in some cities might sound surprising but it simply reflects the changing needs of consumers due to worsening traffic in our cities. Lack of proper public transport in many cities means that people are forced to travel in their own vehicles, leading to a considerable amount of their time being wasted in traffic. Automatic transmissions do a great job of easing the stress of drivers in such situations. Hence, companies such as Maruti Suzuki is now offering AMT even for its diesel Dzire and Swift. Honda too has joined the bandwagon with the first CVT transmission for a diesel vehicle in India with the all-new Amaze. Petrol engines with some or the other form of automatic gearboxes are already on offer by companies such as Mahindra, Renault, Datsun, Tata Motors in the sub-compact segment.
Improved technology over the last few years has also change the perception of automatics being less fuel-efficient and expensive to buy. With the traffic condition in Indian cities not expected to improve drastically anytime soon, it's only natural that more buyers will shift towards automatic transmissions. This is a great opportunity for carmakers and the suppliers too, especially those involved in the manufacturing of AMTs, which are witnessing growth due to lower buying and maintenance costs than conventional automatics.