BorgWarner plans DCT for small cars

The company is working on a downsized dual-clutch transmissions.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 15 Jul 2011 Views icon7314 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Global technology leader in powertrain solutions, BorgWarner Inc is working closely with Maruti Suzuki for developing automatic transmission technology for small cars that could find applications in India for the small car major. Interestingly, BorgWarner is mulling entering into a joint venture or floating a wholly owned subsidiary in India to manufacture the critical components for the automatic transmission (AT) when developed, if volumes justify it.Till then, the core parts of the AT can be shipped from some other BorgWarner location if OE manufacturers demand it, according to company officials.

The small dual-clutch technology (DCT) for the automatic transmission is under development in sync with US, Chinese and Japanese OEMs for the small car market in Japan, China and India.

Tim Manganello, chairman and chief executive officer of BorgWarner Inc, told Autocar Professional on a visit to Detroit, that setting up a transmission plant is a very expensive proposition and involves a cost of around $ 500 million to a billion. “For supplying the main sub-systems and critical componentry for the automatic transmission, it could cost between $ 300 million to $ 600 million, by Indian standards, for setting up a plant with the OEM assembling the main transmission. BorgWarner can license the design to build the transmission to the transmission manufacturer in return for buying critical componentry,” said Manganello.

According to him, Indian OEMs want automatic transmissions but the lack of sufficient number of customers is the limiting factor to introduce this technology in the country. However, he is of the opinion that the huge small car market in India offers massive business potential for BorgWarner as no supplier has, as yet, developed an automatic transmission that meets the price point or specific technical needs of carmakers.

Hence, there is still need to penetrate the Indian market and BorgWarner is currently working on development programmes with some OEMs but has so far not bagged any purchase orders. “We are closing in on it,” he reassured while adding that production of automatic transmissions involves a long gestation period and considerable testing as it is being developed specifically for these local markets.

With no organised automatic transmission production in India so far, BorgWarner is optimistic that it will be around to help Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Motors besides Maruti Suzuki in the future.

Furthermore, the company’s DCT technology is expected to penetrate the small car market in China over the next three to four years as a mass product, after which it would be brought to India when automatic transmissions are expected to become popular in small cars.

Pricing though could be an issue. Manganello says that Japan has to bear a higher price point and that could be made to work in China also. “There is no reason why we cannot make it work in India once we make it work in Japan and China.”

BorgWarner's dual-clutch transmission technology is believed to be an offshoot of the same core technology of DCT employed in Europe but with a different approach.

DCT technology makes an automatic transmission very efficient and reduces emissions. In India where manual transmissions are the order of the day, the youth and women drivers are expected to drive growth of this product due to its greater efficiency while manoeuvering through fast-burgeoning city traffic. BorgWarner has been providing its DCT technology to Volkswagen and Audi for the VW Passat and the Audi A6 and A8 models for over a year now and DCT is expected to reach India through these saloons initially.

Downsizing DCT tech for small cars

According to John Lewis, senior sales manager of BorgWarner Drivetrain Systems, the same DCT technology is being downsized to a small automatic DCT 170 size for small cars. In China, BorgWarner has entered into a joint venture with 12 Chinese OEMs and will produce various dual clutch transmission modules beginning end-2011. “By leading the DCT expansion into the Chinese marketplace, this joint venture will establish BorgWarner’s DualTronic technology as the preferred automatic transmission solution in China,” Manganello had said when the JV was formed. “It is easy to apply the same technology to Indian models with minor interface changes,” Lewis explains. To profile the DCT, one clutch controls the shift of the odd-numbered gears while the second clutch controls the even-numbered gears. When the driver shifts gear from first to second, the electronics in the technology turns on the clutch for the second gear and simultaneously turns off the clutch for the first gear so that there is a synchronous shift of gears.

This means that electronically actuated high pressure hydraulics control that shift by fine-tuning the controls so that it allows a seamless shift performance to the driver and optimises the performance for the vehicle system. “This leads to an extremely efficient performance of gears, greater efficiency for vehicle as well as considerable fuel economy,” remarks Lewis. He maintains that for small cars the automatic transmissions based on the DCT would be smaller, stronger, faster and cheaper by reducing the part materials and through economies of scale.

Lewis views the Indian market as ideal for DCT technology and expects that a JV, if formed to capitalise on volume production, would target either Chennai or Pune to be in close proximity to OE customers. The $ 5.6 billion US-based BorgWarner produces engine, transmission and all-wheel-drive systems and has a presence in India through six entities. It has a joint venture with Turbo Energy Ltd in Chennai for turbo systems, a joint venture in Pune with Divgi Metalwares for drivetrain systems, another JV in Pune between BorgWarner BERU Systems and the Jayant Group of India for making glow plugs and intake heaters, and a fourth JV exists between BorgWarner and the Vikas Group at Faridabad for emission products like EGR coolers, pipes and systems.In addition, BorgWarner has a wholly owned subsidiary in Chennai for manufacturing viscous fans and fan drives, and another wholly owned unit at Kakkalur, near Chennai, for producing engine timing chains, tensioners, arms and guides.

Manganello says BorgWarner's strategy in India is to provide its technologies to meet new demands of OEMs that will drive growth of new products, manufacturing plants and business with every major OEM in the country.
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