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Old 25th December 2010, 08:53   #16
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Default Re: The story of automatic evolution. Written A/T matically by !xobile

I thought first automatic in India was Cielo, never knew Maruti had auto box in 80's.
Auto box is here to stay and I see lots (santro and i10) on Bangalore roads. Sid, good Christmas gift to TBHPians :-)
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Old 25th December 2010, 09:13   #17
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well till now i have seen in auto transmissions:

maruti 800
wagon r
zen
cielo
opel astra
honda civic
honda accord
honda city 2 n 3rd gen
santro

i have driven cars and they are really a blessing for delhi traffics,no more paining legs

but yes they need much more maintenance than the manual ones
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Old 25th December 2010, 09:25   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smokin View Post
but yes they need much more maintenance than the manual ones
How so?

I drove an automatic for 80000 kms. It didn't need anything other than routine maintenance which any car needs.
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Old 25th December 2010, 10:50   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by av8er View Post
WHAT? Maruti 800 Automatic

I never knew that. That is shocking news to me.
Yes they were available and it came with a 2 speed autobox. I have owned one for 5 years. The box was horrible to say the least.

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Originally Posted by carboy View Post
Yup. A family friend had it. He knew a disabled person who he wanted to employ as a driver. That's why he bought it. And at that time, it was never called Automatic. It was just a special order cars for disabled people.
Nope thats not correct. Those 800s had a very prominent AUTOMATIC badge on the boot.
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Old 25th December 2010, 11:21   #20
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Default Re: The story of automatic evolution. Written A/T matically by !xobile

CHAPTER 1.
BRING BACK THE FEELING.


Remember how it felt to be free?
Remember the butterflies that you had in your stomach?
Remember those moments when you experienced something for the first time?
Well, there were moments when...
There were moments when the Indian automobile industry had just tenderly began its modernization phase.
December 14, 1983, history is created when India's first modern passenger car, the Suzuki SS80 based Maruti 800 rolled out of Gurgaon, signaling the golden era in motoring.
Powered by a796 cc 3 pot engine mated to a floor mounted 4 speed manual and with creature comforts like OHC, AC and radio, it made all other cars on sale look prehistoric.

The A/T matic revolution begins.


But perhaps, very, very few people are aware that maruti suzuki created another revolution when it silently launched its SB 308 alto based 800 with a 2 speed automatic transmission in early 1990, on special requests for disabled people. Freedom from clutch and frequent manual gear shifting, it was a dream come true for those who could not drive. But somehow the car didn't click and is almost close to rare species. Somewhat I remember seeing it parked in my locality. Somewhat a forgotten story, a day that would never come by, memories of that I still remember...

Somewhat about half a decade passes by and the industry undergoes a major change. A result of liberalization and delicensing, foreign carmakers begin to set up their factories and roll out world class automobiles for Indian market consumption. One such giant was south Korea based Daewoo Motors, which launches the country's first sub 10 lakh rupee luxury car (barring the rover montego trio), the opel kadett based Daewoo Cielo in GL, GLE and for the first time ever, commercial launch of GLE with 3 speed automatic also takes place in mid September 1995 after a tie up with DCM. Powered by a 1.5L SOHC 80 hp MPFI engine, and somehow priced north of 6 lakh rupees, the AT version is promoted heavily initially with a classy TV commercial featuring a happy go lucky couple with the famous line,"hey look, either I can change gears, or I can hold your hand. I can't do both."

Somehow !xobile and xobila are chugging along in an automatic cielo on their honeymoon where suddenly danger looms over the horizon.





Time to vroom and break away from the herd...perhaps time to rekindle that joy of living with freedom. Again?

With the cielo hogging all the limelight and another feature packed GLX and GLX AT being launched after a year, how can the giant be left behind?

Its the time of your life to break free. Perhaps time to burst out all your stress and live with a high esteem.
Presenting the new Maruti Esteem AX. A convenient 3 speed Japanese AT transmission to burst the stress out of your driving and keep you relaxed, refreshed and perhaps retired from gear shifting, but never tired. Powered by a 1.3L SOHC ACE engine with 65 hp, and priced close to 5.9-6 lakhs, it again meets with a meagre response. Perhaps the market has not matured enough and seeing the cars, again is akin to a blink and you miss me experiance.

1997 will mark as another year when Maruti creates a chapter in text books titled, "Zen and the art of automatic." Powered by a 993 cc, carb'ed engine with 50 hp, it was the country's first premium automatic hatch equipped with a 3 speed AT based on the esteem box. Priced north of 4.7 lakh, and aimed at lifestyle city seekers with lots of sleekers inside them, it bombed badly in the market.


A Jolt. Perhaps many people were curious at why these cars, aimed at convenience seekers, were bombing one after another..perhaps it was a case of teen teegada kaam bigada, that is the market cited three factors for their failures.
  • One, the prices were ridiculously high.
  • Second, the transmissions were ancient an had power sapping torque converters instead of clutch, which severely affected performance and mileage. In fact their mileage figures dropped by 40-50 percent at worst as compared to manual counterparts.
  • Third, they required heavy maintenance and not all people were accustomed to driving automatics.
Perhaps, time for a fourth quadrant to strike back. Will it change the market dynamics and the way people look at automatics?
Or will it be yet another one for which other manual cars will attend its "chautha"?

Find out in the next part, as this Christmas, we get cozier in our honeymoon.

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So, enjoy this Christmas cake and sing
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!
Sing a song for the glorious season.
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas!
Sing a song for a happy new year.

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Old 25th December 2010, 13:59   #21
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Default Re: The story of automatic evolution. Written A/T matically by !xobile

For India it could be 25 years, but I guess ATs have been in other countries for a much longer time now.

I remember seeing Esteem AX during those days. Didnt understand what A - stood for (childhood days).

Hyundai is taking for cake for AT boxes in India.
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Old 5th January 2011, 23:02   #22
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Its been a long Christmas and a new year break since this thread went into sunset. Perhaps, time to create a sunrise this 1/1/11 and bump it again.

CHAPTER 2.
CHAUTHA.


A message. Do not get balked by seeing the chapter name. !Xobile is known for off beat and perhaps love it or hate it namkaran for his stories, but the case of chautha here means fourth (not to be confused with the chautha in page 6 of newspapers), or in basic terms, the need for fourth speed. the year 1998 was a landmark year in the Indian automobile industry when Honda formally entered in the India market with its made for ASEAN city sedan, spun off the civic platform and was the country's first car with a 4 speed automatic transmission.

Available with a 1493 cc, 100 bhp SOHC hyper 16 engine, it changed the way people looked at automatics. A light kerb weight of 985 Kg and a refined, responsive engine with well chosen gear ratios plus a new generation torque converter made it a nice, zippy runabout for convinience seekers and given the dismal show of automatics til date, it had a cautious start but was well accepted as months went by. Yes, the torque converter had its limitations of power sapping and drop in mileage, but it was not that significant to be called a deal breaker, in fact, this car is singularly responsible for kickstarting the A/T matic transmission trend in India and subsequent generations of the City have always had an automatic as an option.

Perhaps for those less informed, the Brazil-engineered-built-in-Gujarat opel Astra was also launched with a 4 speed automatic in Mid 1998. A discreete badging "Astra 1.6 AT" and a high sticker price of 10 lakhs meant that it was only for a limited audience. But, was it a case of "two little, too late"?

The city was selling decently, but this "german engineered masterpiece" was fast fading from the minds of consumers, worst, it had a wheezy engine to propel it. 1598 cc, JUST 76 bhp NZR motor that churned out 5 kmpl with A/T was not that the Indian car buyer wanted. Expensive maintenance costs plus poor service reputation meant that the astra 1.6 AT vanished even before it deserved a second look. It was phased out in December 1999 and on the arrival of a 95 bhp MPFI engine in 2000, the AT transmission was not offered. the City underwent a facelift in 2000 and a 1.5 EXi with 4 AT was offered as the car's demand began to go up.

Perhaps the new millennium will see the entry of a car that will set the standard for automatic transmissions in the Indian market and will also kickstart a trend that will see other manufacturers follow suit in the coming years.

All this more in the next chapter in this writeup on the evolution of A/T matic cars in India, coming in the next post.

Last edited by sidindica : 5th January 2011 at 23:07.
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Old 5th January 2011, 23:34   #23
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Default Re: The story of automatic evolution. Written A/T matically by !xobile

sidindica humbles me, didn't even know that the 800 had A/T, but the target market,well, very license raj-like,only for the needy and not for the one who demands.
Thought that A/T in india started only with the Zen,Esteem and merc W124.
Ceilo and Astra, surprised me again.
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Old 7th January 2011, 22:15   #24
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Default Re: The story of automatic evolution. Written A/T matically by !xobile

Lovely work sidindica. I hope eventually we can refer all AT answer seekers to this one thread that will set to rest all the low mileage, high maintenance doubts.
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Old 8th January 2011, 18:24   #25
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IMO the lack of popularity for A/T is also because of the mileage obsession that we have in our country (love those "Kitna deta hai" ads). The mentality is changing slowly with increasing traffic on the roads.

I have a City A/T which I only bought because my wife indicated that she may try driving once in a while, and she is not comfortable with M/T. However, I thoroughly enjoy it, and prefer that to be my first option driving in the city. The paddle shifting makes it fun on the highways as well.
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Old 8th January 2011, 22:02   #26
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Default Re: The story of automatic evolution. Written A/T matically by !xobile

Quote:
Originally Posted by nitinralli
I always had this question. Is Auto gearbox expensive to maintain than a manual one? Is this the reason why in India Auto was never a good choice?
The A-Star_AT is the 1st AT we ever bought and a quick read of its manual does not seem to indicate any extra maintenance needed. Infact, it looked to me like the AT would be cheaper to maintain than the MT, because the manual says the AT oil needs to be changed only at 1,65,000kms or 11years whichever is earlier. In contrast for MT cars, I guess the gear oil is changed every 20000kms or so (not sure of exact change schedule).

AT in India was not popular due to 2 reasons :
1) Initial higher cost being more. The AT version of a car would be easily 40-50K more expensive than the MT version of same trim. For eg, the A-Star AT comes in VXi trim, but is expensive than the MT-Zxi.
2) FE being lesser than manual transmission cars.

I would think, we need to pay extra for convenience - so reason-1 is no big deal. More so with rising incomes and more disposable income.

Regarding reason-2, the newer automatics are more FE and it also depends on how you drive. For eg, a quick FE test on our A-Star_AT showed 12kmpl when driven by my wife (newbie). The next test had me at the wheel for most of the time and the FE looks to be easily higher by a km or more (FE test not yet complete - so dont have exact figures yet).

As I mentioned on our A-Star ownership thread, ATs are here to stay and I would expect manufacturers to add this to their portfolio. My in-laws are getting lots of queries about the car's performance/FE and my wife is fielding questions about the car when she takes it to office, with most of them reacting to the price of 4.65lakhs as "Does this cost just 4.65 lakhs?". And to think we consider the A-Star to be one of the most overpriced cars available.

Last edited by supremeBaleno : 8th January 2011 at 22:16.
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Old 8th January 2011, 22:10   #27
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[quote=rgedupudi;2202232]IMO the lack of popularity for A/T is also because of the mileage obsession that we have in our country (love those "Kitna deta hai" ads). The mentality is changing slowly with increasing traffic on the roads.

Yes, the mileage obsession surprises me. I see many elderly guys ditch their geared 100 cc motorcycles in favour of Activas but same guys go buy MT i10s rather than ATs. Why this bias when it comes to cars?
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Old 9th January 2011, 03:05   #28
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Nice writeup sid. Looking forward to the next post. Just a couple of points from my side

Quote:
Originally Posted by sidindica
But perhaps, very, very few people are aware that maruti suzuki created another revolution when it silently launched its SB 308 alto based 800 with a 2 speed automatic transmission in early 1990,
It was launched much earlier. My 800 AT was a 1988 model.

Quote:
1997 will mark as another year when Maruti creates a chapter in text books titled, "Zen and the art of automatic."
And the Zen automatic was launched in 1996
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Old 9th January 2011, 11:06   #29
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CHAPTER 3.
THE FIFTH GEAR.

The new millennium would herald a new chapter in the Indian automobile industry. The country's sole luxury car brand, Mercedes Benz unveiled the country's first 5 car with a 5 speed automatic transmission.
The face lifted W210 E class models were launched at the 2000 auto expo and were available with two engine options:
  • E 240 with a 2.4 producing 168 hp petrol.
  • E 220 CDI, also the country's first common rail diesel car with a 2.2 16V CDI OM 611 motor producing 141 hp.
These cars were equipped with a 5 speed AT with touchshift that also enabled owners to enjoy gear shifting manually with a flick-of-a-shift by either pressing + to upshift or -(minus) to downshift. The manual gearbox versions were phased out and would be owners began to appreciate the advanced technology and convenience of the automatics with the joy of working on a manual gearbox without the added chores of using a clutch.

Buoyed by the decent acceptance, 2001 marked a year when Mercedes Benz went on doing the unthinkable. They decided to make the brand available to a wider, more younger audience at a lower price point. Thus, the new C class was born.

Codenamed W203, it was launched initially with two engine options:
  • C 180 with a 2 litre petrol.
  • C 200 CDI with a 2 litre diesel.
  • Classic and elegence trims were offered, with the carry over 5 speed automatic transmission with touchshift as an option exclusive to elegence.
The base model was priced at 19.9 lakh going all the way to 25 lakh for the elegance diesel automatic. But the C 180 was a monumental disaster. Its mechanicals were unreliable and its engine was a design lemon. Many owners reported multiple mechanical and electrical faults and huge amounts in warranty claims were lost by MBIL. The diesel, on the other hand was a decently successful product. Amends were made later, but that will be covered on subsequent posts.

2001 also saw the emergence of a new market, that is the D segment executive luxury sedan market. Two cars between the price bracket of 13 to 16 lakh rupees were launched-the 2001 Honda Accord and the 2001 Hyundai Sonata.

Out of this, it was the Honda that also offered the option of a 4 speed automatic transmission with a convectional torque converter in its 2354 cc, 141 HP Vtec accord 2.4 VTI and VTi-L (the latter was launched in 2002). Sales were decent but compared to the manual only sonata, it was lackadaisical at best. The sonata's richer design and interiors being the selling point.

Somewhere down below, the automatic transmission wars intensified in the lucrative small car segment when Maruti launched its santro rivalling tall man, the Wagon-R in December 1999 with a 3 speed AT version in the AX. No, it did not have a PS but basic features were there and it was powered by an India exclusive F10D 1061 cc 62 hp motor and was priced close to 5 lakh rupees ex showroom Delhi.

Again, as good as a blink and you miss me, the AX was a sales flop. Perhaps was it a time for one upmanship? Will there ever be an affordable and a technically advanced AT for the masses?

Perhaps isn't it time for a double whammy?

Find out next, as !xobile's next pandora box is about to open soon..as things are about to get a whole lot more intriguing.
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Old 9th January 2011, 11:55   #30
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The fact of the matter is not the difficult in maintaining the AT in comparison to MT gearbox. The important fact is: The Difficulty in dealing with problems associated with the Auto- transmission in comparison to MT. From minor problems with AT to the biggest one like a 'coiled-up' AT or disabled AT. The problem will be in getting it back to its previous , able state.

Moreover, the AT is so intricate in comparison to an MT, with its set of bands and clutchs. Reparing it would require a technical personnel of the company, who must have worked in the development of the transmission for that car company; Since, Making sense of it would require someone of high mental discernment let alone repairing it. Get all the best technicians of these so-called Authorized Service Centers , gather them together and ask them that the one who repair the AT or brings it back to life will be payed handsomely, the few that'll come forward would rather try thier hand at it , only to further complicate the auto-box and set it beyond repair. Since, all these technicians of the Authorized Service Centers are drillied to believe in the following dictum :

'Replace it, never Repair it"!!
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