After an unusually quiet 2013, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd has stepped up the heat in the compact car segment early this year with aggressive pricing of its new hatchback that offers two automatic gear shift variants priced just above its manual counterparts.
The country’s largest car maker on Thursday launched the Celerio, aimed squarely at the Indian market, at a price range of Rs 3.9-Rs 4.96 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). The two auto gear shift variants are priced at Rs 4.29 lakh and Rs 4.59 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), just marginally above the price of the entry level manual transmission models of Rs 3.9 lakh.
With the new compact car, MSI has worked on addressing three key issues associated with automatic transmission cars — high cost of acquisition, low fuel economy and maintenance hassles. The design of the Celerio is based on the A-Wind concept that Suzuki showcased at the Thai Auto show. The Celerio is being offered only with a petrol engine — the same 1-litre K 10B engine that is currently available in the A-Star, Alto K10 and the Wagon-R.
Unlike the conventional torque converter automatic or CVT (continuously variable transmission) auto gearboxes, which are entirely independent units that are mated to the engine, the automatic shifter in the new Celerio is just a regular manual gearbox and an intelligent hydraulic actuator — a Transmission Control Unit (TCU) — on top. Information is fed to the TCU by an array of sensors, including the throttle position sensor and the engine-rpm sensor, and the ECU. Based on this data, the TCU directs the hydraulic actuators to engage the clutch and shift up or down the gear range.
Maruti officials have confirmed that the ARAI-rated mileage is the same 23.1 kmpl for both the manual and the automatic variants. “Given the congestion on Indian roads, the demand for auto mode is no brainer. Currently, cars with automatic transmission are less than 5 per cent,” MSI MD and CEO Kenichi Ayukawa said. “Celerio will cater to a growing demand for vehicles with automatic gear shift at an affordable price,” he said.
According to the company, about 25 per cent of consumers who come to its showrooms enquire about cars with automatic transmission but the conversion rate was very poor once they found those issues related with such vehicles. Currently, an automatic transmission (AT) version of a car in the market is more expensive by up to Rs 1.1 lakh than its manual transmission version. MSI has already started taking bookings for the car. In the past, the company has launched AT version of its compact cars, including the Zen and A-Star, but their prohibitive prices made it difficult to crack the market.