Toyota teams up with Aisin AW for volume production while Nissan,
Yet, CVT is found today in more makes than before as an increasing number of carmakers, including those in Europe and the United States, are taking a new look at CVT for a number of reasons. Namely, all of Honda's vigorously selling Fit models have the CVT feature and the new combination of CVT with the torque converter has eliminated the awkward feeling often felt by the drivers switching from an AT to a CVT model, while the addition of the 6-speed semi-automatic mode makes CVT more enjoyable for drivers that prefer a truly sporty driving sensation.
In Japan, CVT is now available on a wide range of models from minicars to 3.5-liter class cars by Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi and Fuji Heavy Industries combined. The CVT is not an optional feature on higher-grade models alone. The carmakers seem to be putting CVT in all their small-sized models including Honda's Mobilio and Mitsubishi's Colt, other than Honda's Fit. Interestingly enough, five out of the top ten passenger cars marketed in Japan in fuel efficiency, as of the end of 2002, had the CVT feature.
■Top ten in fuel efficiency among gasoline-fueled passenger cars in Japan (as of the end of 2002; minicars excluded)
In Europe, MG Rover and Fiat began using CVT relatively earlier than others did. In 2001, BMW followed suit and made CVT available on the Mini while Audi began making its own CVT systems in 1999 and 2000 for the A6 and A4 respectively.
Among the US carmakers, GM began using CVT in 2002 on Saturn while Ford is likely to start using CVT sometime between the end of 2003 and early 2004 on its volume-production models.
Shown below is the summary of the CVT production and procurement structures being built by the carmakers.
■Main CVT Makers
■Models recently equipped with CVT(as of April, 2003)
■Nissan has Jatco-made CVT on its full lineup from small- to large-size models
Nissan has CVT on nearly all of its products from small- to large-size cars. At present, all CVTs are supplied by Jatco.
Nissan introduced a metal push-belt type front-wheel-drive CVT (HYPER CVT) in 1997 for 2.0-liter engines. Today, with the later addition of a 6-speed semi-automatic mode (HYPER CVT-M6), CVT is used on Avenir, Liberty, Serena, Wingroad, Bluebird Sylphy, Primera and Primera Wagon.
Nissan used to have CVT for the smaller 1.5-liter cars supplied by Fuji Heavy Industries until 2002 when it developed its own CVT for 1.4-liter engines (XTRONIC CVT-M6), which is now used on Cube. The company also developed a new CVT (XTRONIC CVT-M6) that could be used with the larger 3.5-liter engines that were thought unfit for the metal push-belt type CVT. The new CVT is now used with the Murano SUV that was introduced in the North American markets in November 2002 and in Teana, a new model that debuted in February 2003. The new CVT uses a metal push-belt made exclusively for Nissan by VDT, which is combined with a larger pulley than earlier types to apply a larger hydraulic pressure to the belt and pulley contact and thus ensure power transmission from the larger displacement engine. The two types of XTRONIC CVT developed in 2002 are being produced in a new line in Jatco's Fuji Factory in which Jatco invested 15.5 billion yen.
In 2001, Nissan completed a rear-wheel-drive half-toroidal CVT (EXTROID CVT) for large 3.0-liter engines. This CVT is now used on Cedric/Gloria and Skyline.
Nissan's use of CVT is limited, however, to higher-grade models, which seems to suggest that the company is yet to reduce the cost to make it available on lower-grade cars as well. This is true especially of the small-size cars. For instance, it is said that Nissan chose not to install the new 1.5-liter class CVT on March that was fully remodeled in February 2002, because of the additional costs (although this decision is likely to be short lived). Mazda is also said to have considered the use of the CVT on its Demio that was fully remodeled in August 2002 but chose not to do so because of similar reasons to Nissan.
■Mitsubishi Motors also shifts its AT/CVT operations to Jatco; Jatco plans to increase capacity to 1 million units
In April 2003, Jatco merged Diamondmatic that used to be Mitsubishi Motors' AT/CVT division to increase its CVT production capacity to 540,000 units combining 240,000 at Jatco's Fuji Factory and 300,000 at Diamondmatic's Yagi Factory. The Yagi factory, Jatco's newest CVT plant that began operation in April 2000, has a larger room for expansion, and the company plans to turn it into its main CVT production center with the plan to increase the company's total CVT production capacity to over 1 million units by 2005.
As part of its turn-around scheme, Mitsubishi Motors reached an agreement with Nissan and Jatco in October 2001 to separate its AT/CVT division as a new company and combine its operation under Jatco (then JATCO TransTechnology). In April 2002, Mitsubishi Motors established a new subsidiary Diamondmatic consisting of its Yagi Factory (CVT production plant located in Kyoto) and AT division of Kyoto and Mizushima Works. In July 2002, the company agreed to a stock swap between Jatco and Diamondmatic. As a result, Diamondmatic became Jatco's wholly owned company in which Mitsubishi had 18% equity. This virtually marked a business consolidation with Jatco.
According to Mitsubishi Motors, the consolidation provided a number of merits. It released the company of the continuous burden of large investments for maintaining competitiveness in the CVT market while it offered Jatco an opportunity to fully utilize the larger scale merit and development capacity which, in turn, would benefit Mitsubishi Motors in receiving a supply of cost competitive products that met the market needs and reflected cutting-edge technologies. For Jatco, the consolidation established a very firm foundation as the core supplier for both Nissan and Mitsubishi Motors and a greater opportunity to take advantage of the greater competency to win new customers beyond the framework of business groups.
■Merger between Jatco and Diamondmatic
Source: Mitsubishi Motors and Jatco news release dated July 1, 2002 and Jan. 30, 2003
■Fuji Heavy Industries establishes a joint company with Jatco for CVT development and production
In January 2003, Fuji Heavy Industries and Jatco established, on a fifty-fifty investment agreement, a joint company called Fuji AT for the development and production of CVT. The new company is located within Oizumi factory of Fuji Heavy Industries' Gunma Works. The two companies have a number of plans for Fuji AT: (1) Fuji AT will have CVT for minicars and 1.0 to 1.3-liter sub-compact cars developed by Fuji Heavy Industries and Jatco; (2) the two companies will exchange their CVT technologies for joint development of CVT; and (3) the newly developed CVT will be produced by Fuji AT at Oizumi factory and supplied to Fuji Heavy Industries and other customers by Jatco.
The companies aim to develop the new CVT toward the end of fiscal 2004 for initial production of 10,000 units per month starting in fiscal 2005. This business is expected to start yielding profit in the fiscal 2006.
The joint operation offers a number of merits. Fuji Heavy Industries will have a greater possibility to increase its CVT customers while Jatco will be able to add CVT for minicars and subcompact cars to its product lineup.
■CVT joint production company formed by Fuji Heavy Industries and Jatco
Source: Mitsubishi Motors and Jatco news release dated Jan. 15, 2003
■Toyota begins CVT production at Aisin AW and belt production at Bosch and Aisin AW joint facility
During the minor remodeling of Vitz in December 2002, Toyota added the U/Clavia grade combining Aisin AW's newly developed CVT (Super CVT) and Toyota's 1.3-liter engine.
Aisin AW began production of CVT for the 1.3-liter Vitz at Aisin AW Precision's Tahara factory that the company merged in June 2002, marking its first step into the CVT business. The initial production volume of 5,000 units per month will be increased to over 10,000 units in the future. Aisin AW has invested nearly 4 billion yen for building the CVT production line. The company plans to develop a special CVT for every increment of 300cc in engine displacement, based on the CVT for the 1.3-liter engine, to complete a full lineup of CVTs for the 1.0 to 2.0-liter engine range. Toyota and Daihatsu also plan to expand their CVT car lineup with procurement of CVT from Aisin AW.
■Aisin AW and Bosch's joint production of CVT belts
Source: Bosch news release dated May 8, 2002, etc.
■Daihatsu procures dry belt type CVT for minicars from Aichi Machine Industry
Daihatsu procures CVT for minicars (A-CVT) from Aichi Machine Industry. The CVT is used in the Mira, Move Custom and Max.
In 1998, Aichi Machine Industry first commercialized CVT, integrating Dry Hybrid Belts made by Bando Chemical Industries. The CVT is supplied for minicars. The second-generation CVT using dry composite belts, developed jointly with Bando Chemical Industries, is applicable to 1-liter class cars while reflecting weight and cost reduction efforts.
Aichi Machine Industries also supplies CVT to Suzuki and Daewoo (for the Matiz 0.8L). Suzuki launched CVT type cars (the Wagon R in 1998 and Alto in 1999), although the company discontinued CVT versions after the minor remodeling in 2002.
■Honda has CVT on all the Fit models; starts belt production in-house and overseas in Indonesia
All of Honda's Fit and Mobilio models have the newly developed CVT (Honda Multimatic S) that is made in-house. Launched in June 2001, the number of Fit sold in Japan was 104,000 units in 2001. The number rose to 251,000 units in 2002, marking the highest model by model number of that year.
The increase in CVT production accompanied a 20 percent increase in the import of automotive components from EU. According to Honda, the purchase of EU-made automotive components in FY2001 rose 49.3 percent from the previous year to 1.06 billion Euro, including the imports from the EU that increased 19.1 percent to 170 million Euro. The increase in import was due mainly to the increased import of CVT belts from VDT.
Honda used to rely entirely on VDT of the Netherlands for its need for CVT belts. Partly due to VDT's short supply, Honda is having some CVT belts manufactured in-house at Tochigi Technology Center of Honda Engineering, one of Honda's subsidiaries. The in-house production started in October 2001 with the production scale estimated to be around 5,000 units per month.
The production in Indonesia will take place at PT Honda Precision Parts Mfg., which was established in August 2002. It will start production of AT/CVT and engine valves in the fall of 2003 with an annual output of 250,000 units of AT and CVT combined and 550,000 units of engine valves during the fiscal 2004. Most of the products will be exported to Honda assembly plants in ASEAN and other areas.
■CVT production and procurement scheme in Japan
■Audi launches A6/A4 featuring CVT jointly developed with LuK
Among European carmakers, Audi launched the A6 in October 1999 with the CVT feature called Multitronic, followed by the A4 with the same feature in November 2000. Audi's Multitronic CVT was developed jointly with LuK, a large supplier of clutches, and uses a chain rather than the VDT type metal push-belt so it can be combined with 3.0-liter class engines. LuK produces chains, pulleys and hydraulic units in its head office factory located in Buhl, Germany, and supplies them to Audi.
In addition to the models combining Multitronic CVT and 1.8/2.0-liter serial 4-cylinder or 2.4/3.0-liter V6 gasoline engine, Audi also offers models that combine CVT with 2.5-liter TDI V6 diesel power plant. CVT available only on front-wheel-drive models at the present, although the company is said to be developing CVT for all-wheel-drive applications.
■BMW Mini and Rover 45/MG TF feature ZF-made CVT
BMW Mini that debuted in July 2001 features optional ZF-made CVT, called Steptronic, with a 6-speed semi-automatic mode.
The ZF-made CVT is also available on MG Rover's MG TF and Rover 45, although the CVT on MG Rover is called Stepspeed. Steptronic was originally an optional feature on the Rover MGF in 1999 when Rover was part of the BMW group. The CVT in the MG Rover was renamed Stepspeed after the sell-off of Rover by BMW.
When CVT was first used on Rover cars, it was produced and supplied by ZF Getriebe Sint-Truiden NV (ZFST), a Belgian supplier of transmissions. ZFST was established in May 1998 after ZF purchased VCST Variable Transmission nv from the VCST (Vehicle Component Systems and Transmissions) of Belgium. VCST began supplying CVT for the Rover 114 in 1992 and for the Volvo 400, Rover 200 and other cars in later years.
■Ford begins joint production of CVT with ZF in the US in 2003
Ford established ZF Batavia LLC in January 1999 jointly with ZF. The new company will begin CVT production in the 4th quarter of 2003 at a Ford Batavia transmission plant located in Ohio.
ZF Batavia will produce two types of CVT. The first type is likely to be made available as an optional feature, in combination with a 2.0-liter engine, in the tall wagon based on the Focus made by Ford Europe. The other type will be combined with the 3.0-liter V6 engine for use in Ford Five Hundred, Mercury Montego and Ford Freestyle wagon to be launched in the US markets in early 2004.
According to ZF Batavia, the company will produce 700,000 units of CVT in 2007 if the demand grows as expected.
■GM produces CVT in a Hungarian factory for use in the Saturn VUE and ION
In 1999, GM began production of CVT, called VTi, at Sventgotthard factory that belongs to Opel Hungary Powertrain Ltd. (a subsidiary of Fiat-GM Powertrain B.V.). The VTi was introduced in 2002, in combination with 2.2-liter gasoline-fueled engines, on the new SUV called Saturn VUE and the new sedan called ION. GM does not plan to use CVT on other models for the time being as the company reportedly prefers to use CVT on Saturn cars exclusively as a special type of transmission, thereby hoping to enhance the market image of the Saturn brand.
GM invested US$151 million in a new CVT production line at Opel Hungary. GM claims that VTi gives approximately 8 percent improvement in fuel efficiency and 45 percent reduction in the component count compared to the conventional 4AT on Saturn cars.
The all-inclusive tie-up signed in December 1999 between GM and Fuji Heavy Industries suggested that Fuji Heavy would play the role of the "center of expertise" within the GM group regarding the 4WD and CVT technologies. Concrete plans, however, have not been announced as of today.
■CVT production and procurement scheme in US and Europe