Automatic (automatic transmission) cars in India, until recently, were seen as “expensive,” “fuel-guzzling” and “high-maintenance” technology that was accessible only to wealthier consumers who were able to purchase high-end cars. This is clear from the fact that, until 2013, only 4% of all passenger cars sold in India were automatics.
However, with newer technologies, judicious pricing, improvements in mileage, better marketing and the promise of a smoother and less-stressful commute, things are changing—and quite rapidly. Today, one in every 10 cars sold is an automatic car.
While automatics come in different formats and technologies, the game changer has been the recent introduction of the cost efficient AMT or automated manual transmission, which offers convenience, easy manoeuvrability given India’s traffic-heavy road conditions and great fuel efficiency, at an accessible price point. And combined with some clever marketing strategies by industry leaders, this segment began to get positive responses from consumers—clearly indicating a latent need for automatics in Indian market.
The real buzz started when AMT was launched in entry-level hatchbacks, which received a very good response from car buyers in India. Moreover, since the obvious upgrade for consumers purchasing/ owning an AMT will likely be to a pure automatic for subsequent purchases, India’s market for automatics is only set to expand.
Why are car buyers gravitating toward automatic cars now? Some of the key reasons include:
WITH THE TIMES: Early adopters feel the need to evolve with or before market trends, and to this effect, automatics are their preferred choice.
NOVELTY: Many consumers see automatic technology and ownership as a status tag and a conversation-starter amongst peers.
NATURAL PROGRESSION: Consumers who have driven manual transmission all along, view automatics as the next level.
ENHANCED COMFORT: Car buyers who seek “convenience” over “cost” are more willing to purchase an automatic as their next car.
Most car buyers say they’re interested in moving to an automatic car to free themselves from frequent gear shifting and the resulting fatigue experienced in manual cars especially during longer drives. Ease of driving, especially in the city, are driving more and more consumers to automatics. Road traffic conditions in India are getting worse day by day. The average number of vehicles in India has grown at the rate of 10.16% annually over the last five years. In fact, according to a Nielsen study, 75% of women are considering purchasing automatics for their next purchase.
While majority of the consumers are open to considering automatics as their next purchase, the perception of lower mileage and the lack of familiarity (difficulty in moving from manual to clutch-less driving) are some key barriers for trial. Some of the consumers also believe that automatics are not meant to be driven on Indian roads due to a bumper-to-bumper traffic, quite contrary to one of the key benefits that this technology offers.
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