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Ford Fiesta AT: Will it change the way you drive?
Swati Gupta, 24, bought her first car last year. A cautious driver, the Gurgaon-based IT executive had avoided driving in Delhi till she got married. She dreaded the stress of clutch and gear driving while caught in jams. Then, her husband organised a test drive for an A-Star with automatic transmission (AT). She was an easy convert. "I hadn't realised that automatic would make my driving so easy," she says.
Not too far away, Gaurav Jain, 42, moved back to India after 10 years overseas. The entrepreneur bought two cars - a Mercedes (AT) and Ford Endeavour, which has manual transmission (MT). "Manual only because they didn't have the AT option in Endeavour," he says. After getting used to driving in Europe and Singapore, Jain preferred the comfort of driving an AT on Delhi's chaotic roads. "I wanted even my dad to buy one [AT]. But he thinks the comfort is not worth the price they charge," he says.
Gupta and Jain are, of course a minority among Indian car owners - over 95% of cars on Indian roads are of the clutch and gear variety - but it's a minority that's growing. In the developed markets, AT dominates. Now in India, a combination of factors - a critical mass of AT lovers, rising number of women car drivers, more options in the volume segment, better technology giving better mileage and lowering pricing differential (vis-a-vis MT cars) - is giving car companies reason to bet bigger on AT.
"Fiesta is the first step. We will democratise AT in India," says a bullish Michael Boneham, managing director, Ford India just before unveiling power-shift AT Ford Fiesta earlier this week. "We will slowly move down to the volume segment," he says. He refused to go into specifics. But don't be surprised if you see Figo's AT version in showrooms in the next five years.