AUBURN HILLS, MI – GKN Driveline, a unit of the U.K.’s GKN plc, is strengthening its already healthy portfolio of drivetrain technologies through collaborative efforts with DaimlerChrysler AG andMotors Corp.
Highlighting the efforts are the company’s new electronic differential lock (EDL) and all-wheel-drive power transfer unit (PTU), which was developed in conjunction with both auto makers for their exclusive use.
The PTU launched last September within Japan. Its North American debut was earlier this year for Group’s ’07 Jeep Compass cross/utility vehicle and C-segment platform mates, the Jeep Patriot and Dodge Caliber.
The EDL, currently featured onMotor Co. Ltd.’s Titan, Frontier and Xterra light trucks, will appear this fall as standard equipment for the all-new ’07 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.
“The launch of our new PTU has been a truly global effort, with collaboration among our engineering, business development, purchasing and manufacturing departments in Japan and North America,” Brad Murphy, GKN’s business development director for its Torque Technology Group in the Americas, says at a press briefing here at the company’s North American headquarters.
GKN, the largest independent producer of torque-management devices, holds a 42% share of the global drive/propshaft market and prides itself on a complete range of services and products for “everything in between the transmission and the wheel hubs,” Murphy says.
Its major customers include Mitsubishi,, Renault SA, Motor Corp. and Corp.
The PTU is integral to the AWD system in the Compass, as it transfers the engine’s power to the rear wheels when it senses a loss of traction in front.
The new unit also is lighter, stronger and more refined than previous designs, which, along with reducing costs, are key elements of satisfying the burgeoning CUV market in North America, says, Robert Genway-Haden, GKN regional engineering director-TTG.
The EDL is available for rear- and 4-wheel-drive applications and works by locking both sides of the axle together to optimize traction on slippery terrain.
Although most off-road vehicles are 4WD, Genway-Haden says EDL allows RWD vehicles to have about 80% of the benefits of 4WD without any of the drawbacks, such as weight, complexity and reduced fuel economy.
As an example, he cites the technology’s use on fullsize off-road race trucks. The vehicles, which compete in races such as the Baja 1000, are some of the fastest off-road vehicles in the world yet rely on RWD drivetrains with locking differentials to harness more than 600 hp.
GKN’s new EDL is activated by its patented electromagnetic switch, as opposed to the pneumatic-based design the company currently supplies tofor use on the ’06 Wrangler Rubicon.
Benefits of the new system include ease of use, faster response and the elimination of air pumps, mounting brackets and related tubing that are subject to damage under severe off-road conditions, the company says.
In addition to the Rubicon, several other ’07 Chrysler Group vehicles will offer the EDL as an option, while another U.S. domestic auto maker will feature a version of the technology on one of its ’08 light-duty pickups.
Genway-Haden says additional applications are coming but declines to name specific platforms.
Production for the new PTU, along with the EDL, is handled at GKN’s plant in Bowling Green, OH.
The facility, acquired by GKN last year when it bought TochigiSanyo, a joint venture between Japan’s Fuji Electric Co. Ltd. and Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., recently underwent an extensive renovation in order to outfit it with flexible manufacturing and advanced production technologies, GKN says.
In addition, the plant has adopted an industry-first quality check procedure for PTUs. Every unit that comes off the line is put through a rigorous gear-meshing test to ensure minimal levels of noise, vibration and harshness.
The 80,000-sq.-ft. (7,432-sq.-m) factory currently is running at 75% of capacity, with annual PTU volumes set at about 165,000 units.
Despite a threefold increase in booked business from 2004 through 2009, Murphy says GKN has no plans to expand the Bowling Green plant in the near-term.