Fact 1: Budget diesel cars already cost about a lakh more than their petrol counterparts.
Fact 2: Adding an automatic gearbox to a diesel car could increase this price difference to up to 2 lakh rupees. This makes prices unattractive to buyers on a budget.
Fact 3: A sizeable section of Indian car buyers, even in the budget segments, are now looking at convenience, in other words, automatics.
Currently, there’s no diesel hatchback in India that also offers the convenience of a slush box. India’s best selling B+ segment hatchback – the Swift – is about to challenge status quo.
Maruti Suzuki is said to be working on an AMT variant of the Swift Diesel, a car that will take direct aim at the recently launched Bolt hatchback, which is also expected to be equipped with an automated manual transmission shortly. Both cars use the 1.3 liter Fiat Multijet turbo diesel motor, in 74 Bhp-190 Nm state of tune. Magneti Marelli, the manufacturer of the AMT, designed the transmission aggregate to work with the 1.3 liter Multijet diesel motor, and has already deployed this combination on the Tata Zest compact sedan.
Maruti Suzuki launched its first AMT car early last year, on the Celerio hatchback. A runaway success, the Celerio AMT whetted the automaker’s appetite to equip more of its budget cars with this technology. The Alto K10 Facelift with the automated manual transmission option followed, and the WagonR Sting Ray is due soon. The Italian auto parts vendor is now grappling with the big demand for the gearbox addition, unable to meet it. This has prompted Maruti Suzuki to work with Magneti Marelli for a AMT manufacturing unit at Manesar, Haryana, with heavy localization in order.
Local manufacturing and sourcing of this gearbox technology will do three things.
- It will reduce the cost of the automated manual transmission.
- It will give Maruti Suzuki access to enough units of the gearbox to equip its entire budget car range with this transmission technology.
- Service/maintenance costs of the transmission will reduce on account of higher local content.
The Swift Diesel with the 5 speed automatic manual transmission will dramatically raise the car’s convenience quotient, while retaining the car’s outstanding frugalness. A 40,000 rupee price difference between the manual and automated variants of the Swift Diesel is envisaged. The mid, VDi trim is expected to go automatic. As the Swift and Dzire share engines and transmissions, the latter is also expected to soon follow its hatchback sibling and take the AMT route. Other Maruti Suzuki cars such as the Ritz and Ertiga that also use the Multijet motor could soon get automated transmissions too.