Of the three main vehicle markets of the developed world, Europe remains unique in that nearly 80% of passenger cars are sold with manual transmission. Europe's sceptical consumers, however, may be persuaded to change by the new dual-clutch transmissions pioneered by Volkswagen Group. Matthew Beecham reports.

Although automatic transmissions are gaining a greater market share, especially in northern Europe, consumer resistance remains strong. Motorists with an interest in performance prefer changing gear for themselves, while those more concerned with economy still believe that - quite apart from their extra cost - automatic transmissions deliver inferior economy.

Chicago-based BorgWarner, however, has conducted an in-depth study into the future of transmission technology and concluded that the European love-affair with the manual gearbox is coming to an end. A 79.3% European market share (in 2002) is expected to fall to 44% in 2010, upstaged by fully-automatic transmissions (up to 18% predicted market share), double-clutch transmissions (up to 18% market share) automated manual transmissions (up to 16% market share) and CVTs (up to 4%). BorgWarner believes that traffic congestion, driver convenience and fuel economy potential are the main drivers eroding the switch from manual to all types of automatic in Europe.

Transmission technology shift in Europe (% installation rate, total volume of 16 million passenger cars)

2002
2007
2010
Manual transmissions
79.3
60
44
Step-automatic transmissions
18.4
19
18
Automated manual transmissions
1.6
13
16
Dual-clutch transmissions
0
6
18
CVT
0.7
2
4

Source: BorgWarner

According to Ricardo, North American demand will also be different in 2010, chiefly because of the already high (86%) penetration of automatics, but there will be a shift away from the planetary gearbox design. Ricardo predicts planetary transmissions will account for 78% in 2010, trailed with manual gearboxes 10%, CVTs 7% and double-clutch transmissions 5%.
In Japan, Ricardo estimates the market for manual transmissions will shrink from 19% to 10%, with CVTs being the biggest winner, doubling market share to 38% while double-clutch units will probably make up only 2% of the market.

Ricardo is especially interested in the advantages of the dual-clutch system, as it has already been working on a number of different designs from various OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers. Ricardo sees the new VW/Audi DSG unit as being the second phase of this technology. Third-generation units should appear around 2010, with six-speeds, compact gear selection mechanisms, multi-path gearing, an optimised clutch design, better energy consumption, shorter dimensions and lighter weight. Ricardo believes that dual-clutch transmissions will be most attractive in the C and D segments due to a large improvement in shift quality. Conventional automatic transmissions will remain in the premium segments with a move to 6-speed autos and take parts of the C and D sector before double-clutch transmissions become more widely available.

BorgWarner played a key role in the development of VW's DSG 6-speed automatic gearbox, which combines the smoothness of a state-of-the-art torque converter with the fuel efficiency of a lighter and cheaper to manufacture 6-speed manual. It offers the sporty driving characteristics and good fuel economy of the manual gearbox so appeals to European drivers, yet with the ease of an automatic gearbox. In other words, it enables a manual transmission to perform like an automatic, offering at least 5% better fuel economy on a gasoline engine and up to 15% on a diesel.

BorgWarner predicts that demand for the technology will grow from nothing today to 18% of the European passenger car market by 2010 and 20% by 2015, and will give it a foothold in the US and Japanese markets during that time.

In an interview with just-auto.com, Bernd Matthes, Vice President of Operations - Europe, BorgWarner Transmission Systems, talked about the development of the dual-clutch system and its prospects outside Europe.

Where can we find your DualTronic technology?

On the Audi TT and A3, VW Golf R32, new Golf and Touran as well as the new Seat minivan. It will also show-up in the Bugatti 16.4. The technology itself has no limits. You can apply it everywhere where you can apply a manual transmission. We especially expect to see it being applied to large passenger cars, particularly in performance and sports car segments.

Although BorgWarner has a head start with this technology, others are catching-up. How are you responding to that?

To see competitors is reassuring. If no one else was interested, we would have to think twice! But that is not the case. Our competitors think the same as us that this will be a huge market. We are continuously improving our system and enhancing its performance.

What differentiates us from the competition is that on the one hand we have the largest product offering. So we can basically offer anything that is required to change a manual transmission into a dual-clutch transmission with in-house componentry. And there are three key elements to it. The first point relates to the friction system itself. We have a very long history in friction , manufacturing all those friction elements for automatic transmissions, CVTs and dual-clutch transmissions. But our competitors don't. The second point is that when looking into the transmission control module, we have developed and are continuing the development of specific solenoids as electromagnetic valves in the hydraulic controls that are specifically designed for the needs of a dual-clutch transmission which is different from the needs of a standard automatic transmission. Again, we carry out this development and manufacture in-house. Our competitors don't. Finally, we also provide the electronics so have the full capability to undertake software development, electronic hardware integration and so on.

How are you entering other regional markets?

The market application will go through sports models due to the performance issue. We expect to see it eventually showing up in high volume applications. We also expect to see cars equipped with dual-clutch transmission in Europe exported into Asia and North America. So we will see two things in parallel - on the one hand, the Europeans exporting and on the other hand the local car manufacturers introducing this technology on sports cars. I think that is a very good entry into a market because, aside from the real benefit, you are also creating a specific image of a performance orientated, sporty, dynamic, fun-to-drive car. That is a good starting point to increase market share thereafter.

Expert Analysis

Intelligence set: OE gearbox clutches: forecasts to 2010 - 2nd edition PLUS a pack of 4 supplier profiles

This intelligence set includes one major, 47 page second edition report, plus 4 supplier profiles. It reviews the key market drivers for OE vehicle gearbox clutches, and we extend the analysis from our 1st edition to examine the impact of the 'alternative' transmissions types, such as belt-and-pulley continuously variable transmission, the roller-in-toroid infinitely-variable transmission and the automated manual gearbox. In addition to highlighting the main market trends in gearbox clutches, Chapter two identifies the main players in Europe, Japan, North America and worldwide. Our product fitment forecasts in this study extend to 2010, determining the market (by volume and value) worldwide (and by major car-producing region) for manual transmissions. All in all, this report includes 24 product forecast data sets by region. Find out more here.