A cable-operated manual gearshift mechanism developed in Germany by ZF Lemforder Fahrwerktechnik AG & Co. KG permits greatly enhanced installation flexibility, says the company.

With the new cable-linkage design, the shift lever can be integrated in the instrument console or steering column - as well as in any position on the floor. The twin stranded-wire Bowden-type cables are easily routed around corners and passed through panel openings, says ZF. The cables can be connected to a gearbox placed anywhere in the chassis, such as a front-drive transaxle or behind the passenger compartment in a mid-engined layout.

ZF Lemforder is the chassis technology division of the ZF Group, and specializes in steering and suspension assemblies. Its range of shifters supplements the transmissions built by another Group division, with the new device designed in cooperation with DaimlerChrysler AG, initially for the Mercedes Sprinter panel van. The Sprinter has a dash-mounted lever connected to the inline 5-speed gearbox, allowing step-through access between the cab seats.

Based on a lightweight plastic molding, the so-called joystick swings laterally in the neutral plane of the standard double-H gate pattern for five forward speeds and reverse. The three transverse positions of this movement align the lever for actuation of one of the two push-pull steel cables that operate the selector rods and forks on the remote gearbox. This is done by a system of ball joints, links and a crank arm that determines the stick-to-cable connection, and the consequent amount of cable travel for engagement of the desired gear.

ZF Lemforder, with 25 plants and subsidiaries worldwide, accounts for 30% of ZF Group sales. Its U.S. facility in Duncan, SC, opened just last year, supplies complete front and rear axles for the BMW X5 SUV produced at BMW's nearby Greer, SC, plant.