As part of just-auto’s ongoing monitoring of trends in the transmission sector, Matthew Beecham talked with executives from Torotrak, BorgWarner , Prodrive and GETRAG about how the global transmission market could evolve in terms of the split between manual and automatic transmissions.

Dick Elsy, chief executive officer of UK-based Torotrak, told us: “The conversations we have with our development partners point generally to increasing volumes for automated transmissions, due mainly to the demand for improved fuel economy and driver convenience. Control of the transmission ratio also provides greater scope for integration between the engine and the driveline’s control strategies that can improve economy and emissions. That’s hard to do with a manual gearbox.

“This is something that is starting to become very important to commercial vehicle manufacturers and operators and is part of the reason why we are working with Allison to design a production intent prototype variable transmission.

“Our partners in emerging markets also forecast increasing demand for automatics too. They suit the growing number of new drivers in congested cities. Driver comfort and convenience will be as strong a selling point in the world’s growing number of mega cities as power and speed have traditionally been in markets with open roads and motorways.

“The Pixel, a concept city car by Tata shown at this year’s Geneva show, reflects the direction that Tata sees of the importance that buyers of such vehicles attach to convenience features. The car uses a prototype automatic Torotrak transmission that allows the vehicle to turn within its own length by contra-rotating the two driven wheels. It makes parking and manoeuvring in congested urban conditions much easier and illustrates how automatics still have enormous potential to provide manufacturers with differentiating features.”

Prodrive’s Simon Leleu, Prodrive team leader for transmission and driveline systems, adds that it is important to see each market in the context of the existing manufacturing facilities and consumer tastes. “Automatics have an established presence in North America, manuals in Europe. But in emerging markets, there is less inertia. China has embraced DCTs as the preferred future technology by introducing tax breaks for the manufacturers developing them. Their perceived prestige and smoothness is also attractive to Chinese vehicle buyers.

“In India, AMTs are very well suited to local requirements and Prodrive is helping vehicle manufacturers in every category to implement this technology. For developing markets, an AMT provides much better fuel economy – important where fuel is substantially more expensive relative to incomes. In commercial vehicles in particular, it helps drivers concentrate on the safety of their often overloaded vehicles and it is a low-cost step for an established manufacturer of manual transmissions.”

Meanwhile, Getrag’s engineers point out that, in Europe, DCTs are very well received by their customers, because the Powertrain response is “MT-like” and DCTs offer good efficiency. “With the introduction of DCT technology, the market share of manual transmissions is decreased. In the US, in some portion the market will stick to torque converter ATs. Sure, sports cars contain DCTs. In Japan, for traffic jam reasons the customers will stay with CVTs, beneath the new technologies. India will stay with manual transmissions mainly for the next decade. In China, a strong trend from manual transmissions to DCTs can be recognised. Getrag are prepared to fulfil the corresponding customer demands in China.”

Finally, Alexander Moser, supervisor advanced product engineering, Clutch Systems, BorgWarner Drivetrain Systems believes that, with increases in living standards and expectations in the emerging markets, the demand for more comfort worldwide will also increase, resulting in more customers seeking the driving experience of an automatic transmission. “From an economic point of view, DCTs can be produced in existing facilities using the equipment required for production of manual transmissions. Even if manuals continue to dominate the market in the lowest cost environment, we expect the share of automatics will grow.”