The growing importance of ‘driver control’ in Europe is resulting in the increased penetration of automated manual transmissions (AMTs) and dual clutch transmissions (DCTs) at the expense of stepped manuals.

However, stepped manuals are expected to remain the norm over the next five to six years, albeit with falling market share. MTS are both cost-effective and lightweight, as well as easy to manufacture and operate, according to market research firm Frost & Sullivan.

They allow manufacturers’ overheads to be minimised, making them an economically attractive solution. Over 45% of manual transmission (MT) users prefer to have six-speed transmissions in their vehicles, and these are expected to account for over 60% of MTs by 2013.

“AMTs and DCTs are likely to eat into the share of stepped MTs,“notes Frost & Sullivan Programme Manager Kaushik Madhavan. “However, with end consumers rating fuel consumption characteristics higher than comfort factors, the dominance of MTs is expected to continue.”

Over 40% of AT users are likely to consider an AMT in their next purchase. However, stepped automatic transmissions are expected to remain a favourite for upper-segment luxury vehicles, owing to the superior driving comfort they provide.

Meanwhile, with DCTs offering uninterrupted power transmission to the wheels, thanks to the presence of two clutch systems rather than the usual one, driving comfort is greatly enhanced, without compromising the driver’s control over gear shifting. However, just over 15% of AT owners are likely to shift to DCTs when they make their next purchase. Although not as popular as AMTs, DCTs are growing in significance.

Hybridisation of transmission technologies is likely to accelerate, with particular interest in DCTs due to their fuel saving potential of up to 20%. Here, the Getrag-Bosch transmission unit is of particular significance and is expected to be introduced by 2009-2010.

“Continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) have always been plagued by reliability issues concerning efficient lubrication and the durability of the CVT components,” states Mr Madhavan. “Although the multitronic CVT introduced by Audi has shown promise, there have been complaints from end consumers regarding the need to change transmissions due to failures occurring within considerably short spans of time.” As a result, customer acceptance has been low.

Additionally, with an increasing quantity of electronics being used in transmission technologies, the number of add-on modules is set to increase, resulting in space constraints. Front-mounted transverse installations are likely to be the most affected. Moreover, with the number of gear ratios increasing from the current five-speed to six, technology suppliers will need to develop transmissions with similar exterior dimensions to those of their predecessors.

Innovative transmission technologies such as the three-shaft transmission are expected to gain in importance in smaller vehicle segments where space comes at a premium, meaning manufacturers will need to devise ways to save space.

See also: RESEARCH ANALYSIS: Global automatic transmissions to exceed manual in 2007