Automatic gearbox cars formed a mere 2-3 per cent of the market in India during the start of the last decade, but now their share has risen to about 23 per cent (data by carmakers). Automotive analysts FE has talked to said that affordability, choice and traffic jams are key reasons for more and more buyers choosing an automatic gearbox car over a manual.
“Because of traffic jams, driving convenience has emerged as a major buying factor; an automatic car is more convenient to drive than a manual in traffic,” said one analyst. “A substantial percentage of women buyers and senior citizens prefer automatic cars for the same reason.
”While 23 per cent automatic car sales penetration sounds high enough (considering we had almost negligible automatic cars a little over a decade ago), some new-age carmakers are selling almost one-third of their cars as automatics. For example, automatic transmission contributes 32% to the dispatches of Kia India in the domestic market.
Hardeep S Brar, vice-president & head, Marketing & Sales, Kia India, told FE that in models like the Seltos and the Carens, more than 33 per cent of sales come from automatic gearbox variants. “The popularity of the automatic transmission is majorly in urban areas because people want stress-free driving on congested urban roads. Rural customers still primarily prefer manual transmission cars,” Brar said. “Kia India observed this trend closely and introduced automatic transmissions keeping the new-age customer base in mind. Currently, 33 per cent of the variants Kia sells in India across the portfolio are equipped with automatic transmission.
”Kia India has taken the ‘choice’ route to popularise the technology. It offers its customers cars with four automatic gearbox options (6AT, 8AT, IVT and 7DCT), in addition to two manual gearbox options and the iMT (intelligent manual transmission)—a technology that offers both automatic and manual gearbox benefits.
“Keeping hassle-free ownership experience in mind, Kia India introduced the iMT gearbox in 2020, which is as fun-to-drive as a manual gearbox and as practical as an automatic can be. Currently, iMT contributes 25 per cent to Kia India’s overall sales,” Brar said. “The iMT gearbox was introduced with the Sonet and now it has been extended to the Seltos line-up, too.
”In the Sonet and the Carnival, Kia India offers 7-speed DCT and 6-speed AT gearbox options; in the Seltos, it offers IVT in addition to 7-speed DCT and 6-speed AT; and in the Carnival, Kia India offers the 8-speed AT coupled with the diesel engine.
Brar added that the sales percentage of automatic gearbox cars to total cars will keep rising because of the rise in traffic, drivers preferring stress-free driving, rising disposable incomes, improvement in automatic gearbox technology, and more choice in terms of automatic gearbox options in the market.
A few years later, with the mass arrival of electric cars, the manual gearbox could be history. Electric cars don’t have a conventional gearbox, but have just one gear, operating which is very similar to the current automatic gearbox.
Automatic gearbox sales
Sales percentage of Kia cars with automatic transmission to Kia’s total sales
—In the Seltos, more than one car of every three cars sold is automatic,
—In the Sonet, more than one car of every five cars sold is automatic,
—In the Carens, almost one car of every three cars sold is automatic.