Calum MacRae talked to JATCO's Yuko Fujita. JATCO holds 49% of the world CVT market. JATCO, 75% held by Nissan Motor Company, was exhibiting at the Paris Motor Show for the first time.

j-a: What has changed in your market perception to make you want to display at the Paris Show for the first time?

YF: We are aiming to let the market know all about our continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), how they contribute to reducing CO2. As one of our CVTs is proving very popular in the Nissan Qashqai diesel in Europe, we thought it’s a very appropriate time to promote our range of CVTs in Europe.

And our new CVTs – CVT7 and CVT8 – are more efficient than previous generations. From mini to compact cars we use CVT7, and from medium to large cars up to 3.5L we use CVT8. The efficiency losses are much improved due to changes to the design, use of low viscosity oil, reduction in oil agitation resistance and so on, so the area available for frictional losses is smaller. This has reduced friction by some 30% in CVT7 and by 40% in CVT8 compared to their predecessors.

j-a: How has fuel economy of your CVTs improved due to the design changes?

YF: Quite considerably. For example, with the CVT8 – due to its expanded ratio coverage and reduced friction – we see more than a 10% improvement in fuel economy (in-house measurement using US Combined mode [compared with JATCO conventional CVTs in the same class]).

j-a: The CVT market is viewed as being very oriented toward the Japanese market and increasing rapidly in the US – do you see future opportunities for CVTs in Europe?

YF: We think so. It is possible to set a CVT so that it changes its ratio coverage freely. Our latest CVTs have more than 1,000 types of transmission shift patterns, enabling extremely fine and detailed control that corresponds to each driving situation, thus transforming the step feeling. In order to respond to drivers’ demands in Europe, an optimal CVT for diesel engines was created, based on the Jatco CVT8 that offers both environment performance and a sporty, powerful driving experience.

j-a: How do you see the growth in the CVT market between now and 2020? What sort of volume and growth rates do you see in each of Japan, China, USA and Europe? Are there other countries you see as having growth opportunities?

YF: Due to increasing environmental awareness, increasingly stringent CO2 regulations and the rise in gasoline prices, every two out of three passenger vehicles sold in Japan are now equipped with a CVT. In other parts of the world, including China and North America, the number of CVT-equipped vehicles is increasing every year. CVT specifications are modified to match each country based on the specifications of the vehicle and the needs of the country. We see opportunities for an increasing demand in ATs in markets due to replacement of MTs to ATs. Markets such as China, Russia, India and South America will increase their demand of cars and thus we expect an increase in the share of ATs in those areas. Therefore, we have established sales, development and service facilities in locations that are near to our customers, such as in Europe, China, America, Korea and Thailand.

j-a: Do you see opportunities for JATCO outside of the Renault-Nissan alliance partners including Renault, Nissan, Dacia and Lada?

YF: We are considering all opportunities. In fact, we already have customers outside of the Renault-Nissan alliance partners, such as Mitsubishi, Suzuki and the GM Group.

j-a: How is your progress with hybrid automatic transmissions?

YF: We have hybrid transmissions for FWD and RWD vehicles, both of which have been jointly developed by Nissan and JATCO. Our CVT8 hybrid is already available in the 14MY Nissan Pathfinder and Infiniti QX60 Hybrid. In this transmission, the torque converter of the regular CVT8 with a chain - a chain sourced from Schaeffler’s LuK (Note: this was also the source for Audi’s chain CVT) - for large cars is replaced by an e-motor.

For the Infiniti Q70 and Q50 we also have the RWD hybrid transmission JR712E. This uses a torque converterless JR7 transmission as its base and it installs an e-motor and clutches inside the torque converter housing, making for a compact hybrid transmission.

j-a: On the subject of belts for CVTs your rival Aisin is now manufacturing its own belts – does that present you with any challenges?

YF: As a result of a comprehensive investigation of all the avenues available to us, we prefer to have access to the vast array of know-how that Bosch possesses in belt manufacturing and also to the economies of scale that they provide.

j-a: With the new WLTP/WLTC how will CVTs fare in the cycle?

YF: We cannot comment on the CVT as a solely independent entity. When you talk about fuel economy, you have to consider the car as a whole, as well as other factors such as power sources and driving situations and so on. However, transmissions play an important role in cars, so we are continuously endeavouring to improve our CVTs.

j-a: On display you also have more conventional step automatic transmissions – do they remain an important part of JATCO’s business?

YF: Yes! Although we envision significant growth for CVTs, we will continue to invest in and further develop step ATs for RWD vehicles and in order to meet our customers’ needs.