Switching gears

With increasing traffic congestion and changing mindsets, major automotive players expect a surge in sales of cars with automatic transmission


Nepal’s automobile market is evolving at a tremendous pace. Yet while vehicles with automatic transmission have proliferated in the global market, the majority of car buyers in Nepal still prefer manual transmission. Automakers believe this trend is witnessing a shift, propelled in part by improvements in technology and worsening traffic conditions.

Grishma Lal Shrestha, a car enthusiast and Managing Director of 24 Karats has tried both— cars with manual and automated transmission. “I think with the rise in traffic, a car with an automatic gearbox is much easier to manoeuvre, since you don’t have the constant hassle of changing gears,” he claimed, adding that he personally prefers manual transmission. “I prefer manual to automatic because it makes me feel more in control and that’s where the fun lies,” he said.

A businessman and owner of both variants who did not wish to be named said that he too prefers his car with manual transmission to the automatic one. “The joy of slamming the clutch and shifting gears gives me a feeling of complete control,” he explained, adding that for less experienced drivers, navigating steep inclines with a manual gearbox might be difficult. “More work goes into starting, accelerating, decelerating and stopping with manual transmission. Automatic transmission allows the driver to move through heavy traffic without having to do more than push a pedal,” he said.  Citing the advantages of automatic transmission, the car owner claimed that the long-term running costs of a car with manual transmission end up being more than the automatic variant.“Most of us think that it’s difficult and expensive to maintain a car with automatic transmission but that’s not necessarily true. The most common long-term expense of a manual car is the clutch replacement, especially for drivers in crowded cities like Kathmandu. The manual transmission oil needs to be replaced every 20,000 km whereas automatic transmission fluid doesn’t need to be replaced even at 50,000 km. This is why I feel the future of cars lies in automated transmission,” he said.

Entrepreneur Marica Adhikari claimed that given a choice she would always go for automatic transmission. “Automatic cars are way easier to drive, especially in Kathmandu as the traffic is very stressful and you can barely shift past the second or third gear,” she said.

With automatic variants promising improved fuel efficiency, major automotive players in the country believe that more consumers will opt for them in the future. To prepare for this they have started launching a range of cars with automatic transmission in the Nepali market. Agni Incorporated, authorised distributor of Mahindra and Mahindra, recently announced the arrival of an automatic variant of Mahindra XUV500. Similarly, Advanced Automobiles, Renault’s authorised distributor in Nepal launched the automatic KWID AMT.

“We have received an overwhelming response and numerous bookings for the new KWID AMT,” revealed Nikunj Agrawal, Managing Director of Advanced Automobiles, adding that they expect to sell more than 180 units before the festive season. “People have become aware of new trends and the automatic variant of the KWID satisfied their needs at a good price,” he said, adding that the provisions for and costs of servicing cars with automatic transmission are almost the same as that of their manual variants. However, according to Agrawal, hatchbacks and crossovers with automatic transmission are not as popular as SUVs.

Karan Chaudhary, Managing Director of CG Motocorp, authorised distributor of Maruti Suzuki in Nepal said they were one of the first companies to introduce automatic transmission in the country; they introduced the automatic versions of Swift and Dzire in 2002 and the next-generation automatic transmission in the Celerio AMT in 2013.

Ayush Shrestha,  marketing head at IMS Group, authorised dealers of Ssangyong Motor, claimed that in the next five years the sales of automatic transmission variants will grow by more than 50 per cent in the country. “With increasing bumper-to-bumper traffic in Kathmandu, vehicles with automatic transmission offer easier manoeuvrability. The new generations opt for a better driving experience and there are an increasing number of women taking control of the steering wheel as well as a growing number of expats every year. They all contribute to the increasing demand for automatic cars in Nepal,” he said. According to Shrestha,  Rexton MT and XLV AT have received an overwhelming response since their launch; their sales account for 27 per cent and 34 per cent of the company’s annual sales respectively.