GETRAG.gif” width=120>To be known as GETRAG FORD Transmissions GmbH, the joint venture between Getrag and Ford that began on 1st February this year after almost twelve months of preparation, promises to be the beginning of great change in the vehicle transmissions arena. The deal, in which Getrag will manage the production of all Ford’s manual transmissions at their plants in Europe, opens the way forward for Ford to benefit from some of the world’s greatest transmissions thinking whilst at the same time making best use of highly stretched resources.

Total production will initially be 1.6 million manual gearboxes a year. A new Getrag/Ford headquarters will also be built in Cologne to head the joint venture. Part of the deal also sees a large joint investment (more than US$0.5 billion) to develop a complete range of next generation transmissions for Ford over the next five years – and Ford has guaranteed to continue to source gearboxes from the joint venture for a minimum of five years after that. These new gearboxes will not only comprise new six speed designs but also the new high-efficiency automated manual (AMT) concepts that are beginning to appear on the market as a way to improve vehicle fuel economy and emissions. Getrag was first to the market with an AMT back in 1996 when it produced a sequential automated manual gearbox for the BMW M3 and has since built on its experience with units for DaimlerChrysler‘s Smart and Sprinter vehicles and the automation on the new Ford Transit.

Examples of 5 speed manual transverse installed transmissions

“Getrag was first to the market with an AMT back in 1996”

The Ford plants involved are Cologne, Halewood and the Bordeaux manual transaxle facility in France. The plants are currently running at near to full capacity but some additional units may be produced, should the joint venture wish, by increasing the number of night shifts. Ford will continue with its existing automatic transmission manufacturing facility (also at Bordeaux) under its own management for the time being. That plant supplies a range of conventional automatics that are mainly used in the US so there won’t be any great conflict of interests if and when Getrag Ford start to produce their own AMTs – at least not for the next few years. AMT in its present form is not a competitor to the traditional automatic for smoothness anyway, even if it does offer much improved fuel economy and emissions. The concept will be slowly rolled out (by a number of gearbox makers) across European vehicles until further development makes it suitable for the US mass market.

Whether this will also affect Ford US new transmission developments remains to be seen, but Getrag has already done important work in many new transmission areas; AMT for BMW and DaimlerChrysler, CVT development work for undisclosed clients and also Infinitely Variable Transmissions for its now second largest customer, BMW. The company is also working on next generation AMT, which has the potential to rival existing conventional automatics for smoothness and far outstrip them for efficiency. Ford is now in the enviable position of being able to let Getrag handle all this development for them. Both partners will share equally in the fruits of this development work as technologies such as next generation AMT, likely to be market ready by 2004, will be made available for sale to other car makers.

Six speed manual gearbox for the Focus ST and SVT is Getrag’s latest transmission for Ford

In the case of development of transmissions for Ford US, it makes absolute sense for Getrag to be involved as it will enable Ford to improve its much-criticised US fuel economy ratings. In a rapid PR response in July 2000, Ford CEO Jac Nasser confirmed publicly that the company intends to improve its SUV fleet economy by 25% by 2005 – a rather tall order in view of their traditionally-made (read ‘heavy’) range of current F10s etc. When asked for details he would only say that the company regards their technologies as a competitive advantage and that they would be applied to volume-produced (not PR-led, expensive, few thousand units-a-year economy) vehicles without an increase in real prices. However they achieve this, Ford needs to be committed if it wishes to maintain its overseas SUV sales (albeit rather limited at present).

President Bush’s new government is in the process of reviewing the ‘demanding’ fuel economy rules of the Clinton administration, (even those are not on the same level as European rules) to reduce the ‘environmental burden’ on the domestic vehicle producers. It is unlikely however that Ford will be able to relax completely in the face of efforts of the other Big Three competitors (with their more global, shared platform strategies they are obliged to produce more economical vehicles for overseas markets). GM and DaimlerChrysler will undoubtedly increase environmental pressure on the father of the Model T to live up to its fuel economy promises.

This latest move with Ford and Dana‘s recent acquisition of substantial shares in parts of the company (Getrag) all go to show how far this family-controlled gearbox specialist has come since it was established in Ludwigsburg, Germany in 1935.

The Ford joint venture comes less than a year after Dana’s agreement to purchase 30% of Getrag Cie*, the Getrag Group’s parent company, and 49% in Getrag North America’s operations on June 29th 2000. Dana’s recent collaboration with GKN (to produce advanced driveline technologies) is ideally complimented by the Dana acquisition of Getrag shares to further develop that company’s chassis and driveline system products. The pattern that is emerging is of Getrag’s part in truly world class vehicle system development and production. Dana and GKN already have the responsibility for the new Ford Transit chassis assembly – Getrag’s links with Dana and now Ford will strengthen this. All moves by the four companies are along the lines that Ford US would prefer; to make best use of already stretched European resources by passing on chassis and transmission development and manufacturing responsibility to the acknowledged specialists. Further evidence of this restructuring comes from the recent joint venture with ZF (51% ZF / 49% Ford) at Ford’s Batavia automatic transmissions plant in which ZF will be responsible for all existing automatic gearbox production at that plant. The venture is also charged with the development and manufacture of a range of new belt CVT gearboxes – for Ford and other car makers. First units off the line are expected to arrive in 2002 to be fitted to Ford’s medium size cars – eventually to replace the majority of the company’s conventional automatic transmission fitment.

“Getrag has grown unstintingly over the past 66 years to become an acknowledged world leader in the manufacturing of gearboxes”

A six speed automated

Getrag has grown unstintingly over the past 66 years to become an acknowledged world leader in the manufacturing of gearboxes. Their client list includes such prestigious names as Audi, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, GM-Opel/Vauxhall, Jaguar, Porsche and Volkswagen. Already a big supplier of transmissions to Ford via Jaguar, Getrag has also worked with Ford-badged cars over the years – the latest product being a six speed manual gearbox for the Focus ST and SVT – Ford’s first ever six speed front wheel drive car. In December 1998, the company set up an Italian production facility to produce gearboxes for the Rover 75 and Opel Astra and Vectra. The Bari, Italy, fac toryadded a further 500,000 units a year of capacity to the company’s 1998 total of 650,000 units.

Their own manufacturing capacity has now reached 1.5 million manual gearboxes alone; with the new Ford joint venture that figure rises to more than 3 million units a year. The new joint venture and the existing Getrag Group will now be known as the Getrag Corporate Group. In 2001, the new group will target sales of around DM3.4 billion with an estimated 8700 employees.

With development and production facilities in Europe, US, Japan and India the company is now a truly global player. In the words of H. Tobias Hagenmeyer (chairman and CEO of Getrag Corporate in addition to CEO of Getrag Ford Transmissions GmbH): “While maintaining Getrag’s independence as a worldwide supplier to the car industry, the joint venture with Ford offers us the opportunity to grow strongly. This necessary growth is to be seen in light of the rapid consolidation in the car and automotive supply industry. With the joint venture we are pursuing the goal of driving forward the joint development of innovative transmission systems.”

*Full name: GETRAG Getriebe- und Zahnradfabrik Hermann Hagenmeyer GmbH & Cie.


European legislation now in place demands that vehicle CO2 emissions must be down to the level of 140g/km by 2008; a target that has also been agreed by the Japanese and Korean car manufacturers (by 2009 under JAMA and KAMA), as a result of the Kyoto Climate Change Conference in Japan. As an example, GM’s latest model Corsa (manual gearbox with 1.2 petrol engine) produces 151g/km CO2 – almost in line with the European 2008 target. Compare that figure with those of larger cars such as the Range Rover (414g/km for 4.6 automatic) and Mercedes S Class (320g/km for 5.0) and one can begin to imagine the amount of re-engineering in terms of weight reduction, aerodynamics and powertrain efficiency that needs to be done to meet those targets.

To link to a related research report, please follow the link below:-

The global transmissions market