OEMS in Need of Expert Transmission ProvidersMon, 09/01/2014 - 12:11
TREMEC has 50 years of experience in designing and producing torque transfer solutions. Starting off as a company focused on manufacturing robust manual transmissions for rear-wheel drive passenger cars, light trucks, and commercial vehicles, today TREMEC serves demanding markets and has operations in Mexico, Belgium, and India. Its operations in Mexico remain its absolute priority with its Queretaro base accounting for 95% of the company’s total sales and employing around 1,600 staff. With a focus on R&D and technological development, TREMEC has put out a steady pipeline of products. Its T-56 transmission, bought in 1997 from BorgWarner, has received various updates until its current incarnation as the six-speed TR-6066. This transmission is now used by GM, Ford, and Chrysler. TREMEC’s seven-speed TR6070 is being implemented in the new C7 Corvette. Finally, the company released the TR-3160 in response to a need for a smaller transmission for lighter horse power applications, which was utilized in the small luxury sedan Cadillac ATS. As for the medium and heavy duty sectors, TREMEC remains a small player but it is actively seeking ways to modernize its products to appeal to these segments.
The arrival of new OEMs to Mexico has triggered new opportunities in the market. Robert Neal, TREMEC’s CEO, explains that the company is looking to work with those incoming companies whose strategic needs match up with TREMEC’s plans. “When a new OEM decides to come to Mexico or North America, we have to create a progressive link with them. We achieve this by looking at what the OEM does and how it lines up with our transmission or transmission component businesses,” explains Neal. TREMEC feels this specialized attention and focus on customer needs has led to long-term partnerships with key players such as GM, Chrysler, and Ford. The company is also a significant component supplier in the medium and heavy duty vehicle markets where it works with Volvo, Case New Holland, and Eaton. “Many OEMs are not coming to Mexico with full engine or transmission plants, so they are looking for product designs that meet their needs or to build their product in existing facilities,” Neal explains. TREMEC’s ability to cover both these contingencies has positioned it as an important player in the market. “We have been building one transmission for an international company for at least 12 years while we probably supply around 70,000 units a year to OEMs,” says Neal. “25,000 to 35,000 of these units are sold just in the Mexican market.”
Neal has confidence in the engineering ability of TREMEC’s workforce in Mexico. However, he admits it can be a challenge to ensure that the workers’ capabilities and knowledge stay up to date. “A lot of training and coordination takes place between Mexico and Belgium to bring the latest techniques and skills from the European car market to North America,” explains Neal. The transfer of knowledge between its European and North American operations is part of a process Neal refers to as cross- fertilization, which means trading compatible skills between two organizations. Complementing the Mexican operation, TREMEC’s setup in Belgium takes care of engineering development and mechatronic assembly for elite niche customers. TREMEC has also recently set up shop in Pune, India, which it has identified as presenting the best growth opportunities. Neal recognizes that entering India entails a totally different challenge. One major obstacle is choosing the right items to feature in a market that needs new products to strike the right tone with Indian customers. “Indian customers are totally different customers,” Neal comments, “They are purely concerned with value, which means they look for functionality at a competitive cost. They appreciate refinement but are not focused on it, and it does not play a part in the purchase equation.” Despite this expansion and plans to soon open up in China, TREMEC realizes more opportunities remain in the Mexican automotive sector. “There are a lot of opportunities for growth here with the opening-up of export laws between Mexico and South America,” comments Neal. “These laws will allow TREMEC to export to the likes of Brazil and Argentina.” The company already has business in South America so these developments are well-tailored for its growth plans. As for North America, TREMEC is looking to become well-known for its application of dual clutch transmission technology for medium and heavy duty trucks.