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Interview - In talks with CV Raman, Executive Director - Engineering, Maruti Suzuki India

Snapshot: Here's our editor-in-chief, Ashish Masih in talks with C.V. Raman, talking about AMT and other stuff.

Maruti Suzuki India is not only the largest car manufacturer in India, but also the largest manufacturer in terms of AMT sales. Maruti Suzuki managed to sell more than 1 lakh AMTs ever since its launch in India and most of the Maruti's car are equipped with the two paddle technology. And who better than C.V. Raman himself, R&D Head at Maruti Suzuki India, to answer our questions on the AMT technology.

Here's our editor-in-chief, Ashish Masih in talks with C.V. Raman, talking about AMT and other stuff. 

Click here to watch our Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza review!

Ashish Masih - First of all, let me take this opportunity to congratulate you on the sale of 1 lakh AMT cars in India! So my first question is, what are the challenges you face with AMT technology, both in terms of manufacturing as well as from the customers' point of view?

C.V Raman - That is a very interesting question. The first thing is, how do you get the customer to understand the two paddle technology? Most of the customers who come to a showroom, they haven't experienced driving a two paddle technology car. The first thing you tell them is that your left leg is not to be used and so, you only have to use the right leg for brake and acceleration. The rest of the stuff is to be done by the gearbox. All you have to do is shift to D, R or N mode.  Once they understand this, they get hooked on and  they take the buying decision.

As for the manufacturing challenge, AMT it is very simple technology. It is a unit which is to be put on the existing manual transmission, and so the maintenance cost is lower. All it does is, instead of the customer shifting the gear, the ECU and hydraulic unit change the gear as per the customer requirement.

AM - Are you looking forward to launch different versions of automatic gearbox? Will you launch a CVT, or dual clutch with a two-paddle technology?

CVR - As far as two paddle technology is concerned, we believe it is very much necessary in India. As the traffic density is increasing, the average speed is going down, the stop-go traffic is increasing and time to office commute is increasing. Obviously, there is a lot of inconvenience when you shift manual gears and it causes fatigue. We believe this two paddle technology is convenient for customers. Also, there should be no penalty as far as fuel efficiency is concerned. So, for us, the prerequisite is affordability, no impact on fuel efficiency and no major increase in maintenance. These factors are considered while buying AMT.

Coming on to the CVT technology, we at Maruti will be promoting the two paddle technology. Looking at the vehicles and customers, we will cater different technology. We have CVT in Baleno and AT in Ciaz. Once a customer is glued on to a two paddle technology like AMT in Alto K10, he can upgrade to the CVT.

AM - One of your rivals, Tata Nano has an AMT technology. So are you planning to bring the AMT in Alto 800 as you are already offering it Alto K10.

CVR - As I said, we will be looking at it, as we are here to propagate this technology because of comfort and convenience. But if you see the penetration levels, it is different at different different segments. Celerio for example, has a penetration of 40-45% AMT, and in Alto, it is 20-25%. People look at cost. While we were doing our research, we saw a 40000 price improvement over the manual gearbox. Celerio met our expectations, we are looking at other cars too. Going forward, we will see if it is required.

AM - AMT technology has been a big success for you as you were the first ones to launch affordable automatic cars in the hatchback space and you have sold over 1 lakh unit for the last couple of years. The first big question is, why have you left out the Swift and are there any plans to launch it with AMT?

CVR - Definitely, we will be looking at more vehicles in which we will be integrating the AMT. In 2014, we started with the Celerio, and thereafter, we have added it to K10, then wagon R and then Dzire. So we are improving our capacity on the AMT and also localization levels with our supplier. Going forward, we are quite confident that we will have more of these AMT in the future.

AM - Talking about Baleno, the product really took off and there's a huge waiting including CVT. How do you feel bout the challenge?

CVR - Well, it's a good problem to have. Having said that, we are sorry not to meet demand and requirement. We are improving our capacities to meet demand level in much quicker time but it will take some time.

AM - Maruti is the first manufacturer to offer AMT, first touchscreen, first Apple Play. So in many sense, you are the first movers in the industry. What, according to you, is the next big thing?

CVT - Maruti always listens to its customers and todays customer is very well aware and aspirational. They are looking for technology, looking for comfort and convenience. Looking at the technology in terms of fuel efficiency, we are getting AGS, new engines, new SHVS hybrid engine and much more. We are also changing the interiors and exteriors and we are studying the market to offer new and new products everyday.

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