Constant innovation has seen the development of many new systems to transfer power from the engine to the wheels. GETRAG has been in the business for over 70 years, and Automotive Industries talks to Bernd Eckl, head of Research, Development, Automatic Transmission Design and Direct Purchasing, Sales and Marketing about the latest trends. Nick Palmen reports
Automotive Industries (AI): Where do you see the most important developments in transmission technology?
Eckl: The most interesting topics in the future will be the further need of fuel economy and the consequences on driveline configurations that result from legal regulations and the oil price development but also from peoples own demand on ecological responsibility. Better efficiencies, lighter weight and technological answers on cost pressure will be dominant in future. But also the upcoming hybrid technologies will drive the company?s strategy – and not to forget driving pleasure, which has always been an important attribute of all our products.
AI: What are the recent technological developments and trends in DCT, All Wheel drive, Hybrids, and how do you meet the new challenges in the field?
Eckl: DCT will be the step automatic alternative with major advantages like fuel economy and great driving performance. It will cover dry and wet clutch applications in all car segments. The typical OEM brand DNA can easily be performed through software algorithms and I am convinced that it will not only be a European technology but also reach significant market shares globally.
The share of all-wheel driven vehicles is growing globally. We think that the AWD market will in future mainly be driven by active torque management systems and move away from passive systems. This will bring further security and dynamic performance to the driver and be an enabler for growing torque demands. An impressive demonstration that shows the aggressive potential of these systems can be experienced with our TWINSTER system.
The good thing is that in combination with DCT or AMT technology you can use the same hydraulic and electric circuits and save costs, weight and package and thus increase efficiency.
The configurations of hybrid drives will vary strongly. This does not favor standardization efforts or economies of scale. We think that flexible modular hybrid drives (FMH) could be an intermediate answer until we will reach significant production volumes for hybrids that allow to present higher integrated solutions – which will not be the case before 2015. GETRAG is offering hybrid drives for AMT and DCT programs and has already prototypes on the road. Also electric drives for fuel cell applications are already on our test benches.
AI: Can you tell us more about Getrag?s efforts in the field of all wheel drive systems and your TWINSTER All Wheel Drive System?
Eckl: The AWD business is one of our fastest growing business sectors. The TWINSTER system in principle controls the torque distribution to the wheels. It is an active system and provides maximum requested torque. In our demonstrator vehicle a special PTU transmits the torque from the front gearbox to the rear axle differential. Two electronically controlled clutches deliver torque to the front wheels individually. In all driving conditions the AWD Twinster beats the 4×2 standard system. Normally front wheel driven cars tend to oversteer. The Twinster system literally ties you to the inner side of the curve. More security and more driving performance are guaranteed.
AI: How closely do you work with the OEM?s on developing new technology?
Eckl: Our basic understanding of teamwork does request close relationships. We think that total success is only possible in transparent and open but also demanding relationships with passion for the customer?s needs. The latest example of excellent teamwork and team spirit is the new BMW M5 AMT transmission. In shortest development time we were able to set new benchmarks on power density and speed shift performance together with the engineers of BMW.
AI: In addition to sustained and growing pressure on pricing by the automobile manufactures, fierce global competition and slowdown in growth in Germany, what restructuring measures and capacity adjustments are planned for the GETRAG Group’s sites for the next few years?
Eckl: Of course we are facing tough competition on pricing combined with economical stagnation in Western Europe. On the one hand we will and we have to increase efficiency and performance of our current locations in Western Europe and North America but we will also establish facilities in other global regions. Our restructuring plans for the existing locations are finalized. Employees, Share Holders and the Management are working together. Security of jobs, new highly flexible and extended working models and better utilization of investments have been agreed and will decrease structural costs. I am convinced that this process will make us stronger than ever before and is bringing clear orientation to our employees.
AI: What were the highlights/cornerstones in the company’s 70 years history?
Eckl: One of the cornerstones that made GETRAGs organic growth over decades possible is the close relationship with premium customers as a partner for technological leadership and reliability in all business meanings.
Another highlight of the GETRAG history is the globalisation strategy that had its beginnings 20 years ago when GETRAG started its operations in the US. The 1980?s have seen a focus on growth in the NAFTA region. In the 1990?s our main focus was on business reorganization in Europe and the set up of a new benchmark plant in southern Italy and a Joint venture in India. For the 2000?s GETRAGs focus is on strategic partnerships and international growth. We have found a strong partner with DANA in 2000, have formed a powerful joint venture together with FORD (the GETRAG FORD Transmissions) and have founded the GETRAG AWD (our All-Wheel Drive company) and the GETRAG Asia Pacific in 2004.
The latest step was GETRAGs move to Slovakia in 2005. The ground-breaking ceremony for the new plant near Kosice has just taken place a few weeks ago.
But the most significant highlight is GETRAGs growing and most advanced product portfolio with transmissions technologies like MT, AMT, IVT, DCT and AWD products for all existing and all upcoming driveline configurations.
AI: At present, what is the position of Getrag in the market globally?
Eckl: GETRAG is on a global basis the largest independent manual transmission systems supplier. We are a pioneers in the DCT technology. First prototypes were made in the late 80?s and we are now in the industrializing process for some major new DCT programs. The hybrid technology is likely to be one of the major trends of the near future and GETRAG is investing in this technology to be ready to meet the future market requirements.
Currently we are strengthening our position in Europe with a new location in Eastern Europe where we have invested about 300 million Euros. And finally we are on our way to locate production in China. Existing and upcoming programs are already booked and we are close to final decision on forming a JV.
AI: How will the company structure help the enterprise to move forward?
Eckl: GETRAGs combined strength in development and production know how will bring further benefits to the customers. We will strongly extend our portfolio towards DCT Automatics but also in MT, AMT and AWD. About 10% of the combined workforces in the entire network are engineers working on the future technology for driveline products.