Transmission Maker Bets on DCT TechThu, 09/01/2016 - 14:37
Q: How does TREMEC’s strategy differ between the domestic and the international markets?
A: The domestic automotive market does not exist anymore. It is true that the market keeps growing, but only 18 percent of national vehicle production stays in the country. Therefore, it would be unwise to target only that small percentage of the market. Unless an exclusive vehicle model emerges for Mexico, we must work to satisfy the demands of the whole NAFTA region. Especially in commercial vehicles, we had to adapt our transmissions to Mexican demands but that is just a small part of our business. We are focusing on the pickup segment within the domestic market, mainly with our 5-speed manual transmissions including the TR-4050 and the TR-3655. Our production also caters to real-wheel drive (RWD) models with high power outputs. Unfortunately, these vehicles are assembled outside Mexico, meaning that we export 91 percent of our production.
TREMEC is a 100 percent Mexican company, which means we develop all the technology we sell. Efficiency and performance are always a priority, considering our customers’ feedback. Light truck drivers are requesting an additional gear for transmissions and we are in the design phase of a new 6-speed transmission for this market. Moreover, we launched a new 10-speed manual transmission for commercial Class-8 trucks. TREMEC manufactures the lightest 10-speed system in its class, providing increased fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, smaller size and greater torque capacity.
Q: How will TREMEC stay competitive despite decreased demand for manual transmissions?
A: We have shifted our attention progressively toward our dual-clutch transmissions (DCT). These are essentially automatic transmissions with the benefits of a manual system, making them more efficient. Automatic transmissions are excellent but DCTs are the best option for RWD applications. Continuously variable transmissions (CVT) are becoming popular in the market given their high levels of efficiency but these systems do not perform well with RWD modes since they work best with low-power applications. In the next five years, the volume of CVTs in passenger cars made in Mexico is projected to increase by nearly 60 percent reaching 1 million units, while its market share will increase from 18 percent to 21 percent. Jatco is the biggest player in this segment with Honda also contributing to its development. However, we must bear in mind that all the models being manufactured in Mexico with a CVT are front-wheel drivebased, with torque ranges below 250Nm.
Manual transmissions are starting to fade in the light vehicle market but they will never completely disappear. Drivers still want to control gear changes, especially in the sport market. The ongoing efforts to save weight have led to several improvements in our manual systems. These include the use of novel synchronizer materials such as sinter and carbon, which improve shift quality and durability.
Q: How has TREMEC participated in its clients' environmental strategy and how can transmissions improve toward performance and fuel efficiency?
A: We have to make these two factors our utmost priority. DCT technology, for example, is 4-5 percent more efficient than normal automatic systems and 2-3 percent more than manual transmissions depending on the driver. TREMEC’s products solve key challenges faced by the powertrain industry including mandates for increased fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, lower weights and compact size.
Q: How is TREMEC preparing for the future of the automotive industry in Mexico?
A: We are ready to make all the necessary investments to expand our operations, depending on the market’s development and we hope to develop our business in Mexico and South America. Within the heavy vehicle market, although we do not manufacture whole transmissions, we make all the components and already participate with Daimler, Volvo and Eaton. We made an important investment in 2015 to improve our operations in this segment and plan to do the same in 2016. We also recognize the market’s need for automation. That is why in 2012 the company acquired a high-tech automotive design and development organization in Belgium, whose products and software solutions are found in leading European supercars.