Special Coverage

Frankfurt Auto Show

FRANKFURT – Manual transmission installations will decline 25% in Europe within 10 years, but the need for low-cost components in vehicles destined for emerging markets will stabilize global demand.

So says Stephan Rinderknecht, vice president-research and development at Getrag GmbH & Cie KG, the world’s largest independent producer of transmissions.

Manual transmissions are in about 80% of new vehicles assembled for the European market, Rinderknecht tells Ward’s here at the Frankfurt auto show.

“But within 10 years, that should be about 55%,” he says, adding the market is skewing toward dual-clutch technology that affords smoother shifts. This results in greater ride comfort.

Europeans are looking for fuel economy and dual-clutch transmissions offer an opportunity to reduce fuel consumption 4% to 8%, Rinderknecht says. But don’t expect manual transmissions to disappear, he adds, because they are well-suited to emerging markets.

Getrag uses the auto show to promote its dual-clutch technology. Branded PowerShift, it will be featured on a 6-speed transmission used by Ford Motor Co., Volvo Cars and a Japan-based auto maker the supplier does not name.

Next year will see the market introduction of a pair of 7-speed dual-clutch transmissions, followed in 2009 by a 6-speed dry-clutch system that can be adapted for hybrid vehicles, Rinderknecht says.

Full “hybridized” PowerShift transmissions and axles will be market-ready by 2010, Getrag says, adding it expects the branded gearboxes to account for 2 million-unit sales by 2014.

The Germany-based supplier expects its total transmission sales to number 3.6 million this year. Axles and power take-off units will reach 1.3 million.

Listening intently to Getrag’s product pitch is Aston Martin product guru Ulrich Bez. He notes the Aston Martin DB9, unveiled this week at Frankfurt, features a manual transmission – and it suits the car.

Bez then raises his hands as if clutching a steering wheel and wiggles his fingers as if operating paddle-shifters. “But the future is here,” he says.