Indian consumers are fixated with mileage and what's better than a car with automatic gearshift for an easy drive on congested roads, that too with superb fuel economy. Maruti Suzuki India (MSIL) launched the Celerio in February 2014 with a unique auto gear-shift technology. What changed the game for MSIL was the fact that it was one of the first models in India available with an affordable automated manual transmission (AMT). Celerio was launched at a time when the Indian automotive market was going through a transition. The share of hatchbacks decreased from 58 per cent in 2011-12 to 50 per cent in 2013-14. "There was a distinct change in the entry-level car market, and it reflected the overall social and cultural change in the country. From the conservatism of 'trust' and 'economy', the critical factors of purchase were increasingly becoming 'latest technology' and 'aspiration'. We paused and thought about the entry-level car logic. We decided to change the language of the entry-level hatchback. Rather than using 'economy' and 'fuel-efficiency' among the talk points, we decided to sell it as a 'tech' product," says Vinay Pant, head, marketing, MSIL. The car increased Maruti Suzuki's share in lower hatchback segment by 10 per cent within one year of launch. The new AMT technology was developed to address the concerns related to automatic transmissions - price, fuel efficiency, maintenance issues and low resale value.
These aspects clearly defined the positioning of Celerio - easy and hassle-free driving. The entire communication was geared to highlight how the company has cracked all these barriers. "Maruti Suzuki did a very good job in positioning the Celerio well and most importantly at an affordable price point," says Kaushik Madhavan, head, automotive and transportation practice, Frost & Sullivan. The AMT variant was about Rs 40,000-45,000 more expensive than the manual variant. "Value addition and its perception are important in this segment considering that a majority of the buyers in this segment are first-time buyers. Subsequently, dealership reach, service capabilities and after-sales experience play a very important role in creating the 'peace of mind' experience - some reasons why OEMs like Nissan, Renault are not able to crack this segment, even with competitive products," says Madhavan. By offering the convenience of automatic transmission at an affordable cost and with fuel efficiency on par with manual transmission, Celerio won over customers by fulfilling a latent need. AGS was subsequently introduced in Alto K10. Almost a-third of MSIL sales comprise auto gear-shift variants of various models. In fact, within a year of Celerio's launch MSIL's share in the lower hatchback segment has shot up to 71 per cent from 61 per cent, according to a company release.