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Automotive Industries spoke to Bernd Eckl, Executive Vice President of Getrag.

The Getrag Corporate Group is driving home the “Ecology needs Dual Power” message to launch a variety of dual clutch transmissions linked with electric drives as hybrid transmissions and electric rear axles. The company is continuously improving its dual clutch product portfolio under its brand Getrag PowerShift of both wet and dry dual-clutch transmissions. Automotive Industries (AI) spoke with Bernd Eckl – Executive Vice President, Getrag.

AI: What is Getrag’s share of the market at present and what are your goals for the future?
Eckl: Right now, our market share in manual transmissions is 3.5 million units globally. So, if you look at approximately 70 million cars in the global industry, we are talking about market share of 5 per cent of the global transmission market. If we look only at manual transmissions, which is 40 per cent of the market, then our market penetration is 12 per cent. That makes us the largest independent transmission maker for passenger cars with future plans to grow especially in the Americas in China.

AI: At IAA, you presented your second-generation dual-clutch transmission. When do you intend to launch the technology and which models will be the first to benefit from it?
Eckl: Second-generation dual-clutch transmission means further optimized fuel economy and reduction of CO2 emissions by reducing drag torque, increasing efficiency, introducing new actuation concepts and using dry clutch technology. These Getrag Powershift transmissions will be launched end of 2009 in Europe and the Americas for local brands as a global transmission platform at the same time. Our customers will use this technology mainly in their B- and C-car platforms.

AI: What other applications can we expect?
Eckl: We had on display at the Frankfurt International Auto Show GETRAG Powershift applications for super performance sports car and also premium segment power trains for Inline applications. These will be launched 2008 in the European marketplace, where we combine comfort, dynamics and efficiency. We also showed electronically controlled limited slip differentials. We will have several launches within the next years in the AWD business and we are launching eAD – electric rear axle, which is going into production in 2010. We have partnered with our customer to provide this hybrid electric rear axle drive.

AI: How do your concepts and solutions for electric axles combine the advantages of hybrid drives and all-wheel drive systems in terms of cost and weight reductions?
Eckl: If we look today at the AWD business – whether it is SUV or a small B platform car – most of the users expect traction and dynamics. The question is if the AWD in each of these cases is always needed as the technology of choice. Therefore, we think there is an opportunity to fit electric AWD on the rear axle in place of mechanical AWD. We can have hybrid functionality for boosting and recuperation. What we do not have with the electric rear axle is of course is the start/stop option. The start/stop option today is already in place with many customers by using stronger generators powering start/stop, so we think we will be able to reduce weight for the AWD customer and add hybrid functionality.
We are developing a hybrid AWD system, which will reduce the weight of the entire powertrain by roughly 20-30 kilograms, and we will reduce mechanical system cost because we do not need to have mechanical connections between the combustion engine and the rear axle. This is the basic idea that we brought to the marketplace. As I said before, we already have customers very interested in the concept, and we think that this option for FWD cars has a big future. It provides optimum traction while reducing costs and weight.

AI: What do you think will be the future of hybrid transmissions?
Eckl: We think that hybrid drive transmission needs to be an option for the powertrain in general. Our strategy is to offer to the marketplace flexible modular hybrids because we think the basic technology is there to be used. We think that having an electric motor mounted parallel to the powertrain itself gives the best combination of flexibility and modularity. The electric drive can also operate independently of the mechanical power train. This means one can operate the electric motor at high revolutions, which is in our words a “speed machine” instead of a “torque machine”. In our opinion, this speed machine is much more efficient than the torque machine. In the hybrids that we see today, the electric motors are between the crankshaft and the transmission. They have torque at low rpm but it is not optimum. We think that on the packaging side and for weight reasons, the speed machine is much better and more flexible than the crankshaft electric machine.

AI: What are your plans for North America?
Eckl: We want to explore the NAFTA market with Getrag Powershift, are in discussion with major customers and have already started to build facilities in the region for these transmission types. Our plan contents a facility for wet-dual clutch transmissions and one for dry dual clutch transmissions. Both transmissions will achieve – if everything goes right – high volumes. For us the entry into the North American automatic marketplace is a big challenge. Our technology replaces inefficient automatics, which means the customer will gain huge fuel economy improvements.

AI: When do you think the production of state-of-the-art dual clutch transmissions in North America will be possible in high volumes?
Eckl: We will start production in end of 2009 in the NAFTA region. Within five to seven years, we will gain share of the market of approximately 10 per cent in the North American automatic transmission market.

AI: Which car makers are interested in your technology and whom do you target in NA?
Eckl: In principal, all OEMs are interested in DCT technology and hybrid drives. The Powershift technology mainly was and is driven by Europe so far, but the NAFTA market is growing and takes very fast decisions. We will transfer our technology to the North American marketplace. Just a few years ago, we had to work hard to convince the market place. VW was the first to use the technology, but nobody but us was following when decisions in favor of DCT had to be taken in the end of the 90´s. As a result, VW has a four-year advantage with this technology. Today, DCT is a well received technology and will gain market shares on all continents.

AI: What next? After North America, do you intend to launch DCT globally?
Eckl: We see biggest growth potential in of course in the Asia Pacific region. We have launched our joint venture in the beginning of 2007 for manual transmissions and AMTs. Of course, we are thinking about localization of GETRAG Powershift technology in all large automotive regions but I think we will not be ready to go with localized DCT technology into the Asia Pacific region before 2012 – not because the technology is not needed in the marketplace, but because of the supply chain, which is not available right now. We cannot rely on exports of components from Europe or North America to China. We need to install the supply chain first, and then we will be ready to make our decisions for the Asia Pacific region and China especially.

AI: What are the main factors / qualities that help you in your successful partnership with OEMs?
Eckl: I think that in the current situation, there are many innovations in the marketplace and the customers do not have the patience to wait three or four years to launch something. If it is available and fits to their business case, they press hard to get it short term into production. What we see right now is that we need to learn to think even more strategically in the future, to learn to make early decisions from conceptual stages in order to achieve excellent quality levels and reputation. We also have to accept that newest technology must get a chance to step in the market in order to develop further. Of course, it must perform better than the predecessor technology but innovation is the key for the western supply industry so it is a question of survival, also for the OEM.
Besides comfort, dynamic, quality and cost we see that fuel economy and emissions is one of the key drivers today. In order to achieve optimized results there must be close co-operation between OEM and entire supply chain. If some years ago the pressure on fuel economy and emissions had been harder you would already see today a large variety of DCTs at all car brands.

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