Country's largest car maker Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) is bidding to its enhance position in the compact car segment with upcoming model Celerio that will cater to a growing demand for vehicles with automatic gear shift at an affordable price.
With the new compact car, which is slated for launch on February 6, the company has worked on addressing three key issues associated with automatic transmission cars -- high cost of acquisition, low fuel economy and maintenance hassles.
"We thought if we could address these issues, we will be addressing a good segment of consumers who are looking for automatic transmission in mass segment," Maruti Suzuki India Chief Operating Officer (Marketing and Sales) Mayank Pareek said.
He said nearly 25 per cent of consumers who come to the company's showrooms enquired about cars with automatic transmission but the conversion rate was very poor once they found those issues related with such vehicles.
"With Celerio, which has been developed at an investment of around Rs 570 crore, having our EZDrive technology, we have addressed those issues," Pareek said.
While he did not elaborate on by how much the Celerio with automatic gear shift will cost, he said, "the difference in price with a manual transmission will not be significant".
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, he added.
The company has already started taking bookings for the car, although its prices will be announced only at the time of launch.
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.
The Celerio will be pitched against the likes of Hyundai's Grandi10 and Honda's Brio, whose automatic versions are priced at Rs 6.04 lakh and Rs 6.19 lakh, respectively (ex-showroom, Delhi).
According to MSI, the Celerio will offer a fuel efficiency of 23.1 km per litre and will be offered in six petrol variants - four with Manual transmission and two with Auto Gear Shift.
Celerio Auto Gear Shift variants will have the flexibility of both manual mode and auto drive mode in the same car, with a simple shift of gear lever.
The car comes loaded with several features like alloy-wheels and blue-tooth connectivity across variants. Celerio which sports 1 litre K-next engine, would be available in seven colours.
MSI's current compact car portfolio comprises Swift, Estilo and Ritz. During December 2013, the company sold 19,171 units of compact cars, down 14.7 per cent, from 22,482 units in December 2012.