Jatco targets EVs, emerging markets
Hata plans to boost Jatco’s global sales.
YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Jatco Ltd. President Takashi Hata says the transmission maker plans to unveil two technologies by year end: a low-cost automatic transmission for emerging markets and a transmission for electric vehicles.
Separately, Jatco will open its North American headquarters in Tennessee by the end of this month.
The EV gearbox will be a continuously variable transmission that aims to improve EV energy efficiency by as much as 20 percent. Jatco hopes to sell it to Nissan Motor Co. for use in the next-generation Leaf and other EVs, Hata said.
Jatco, 75 percent owned by Nissan, plans to show both technologies in November at the Tokyo Motor Show.
The low-cost automatic transmission will target emerging markets, where manual transmissions are still king. It will be based on a traditional step-geared automatic transmission or a pulley-style CVT, Hata told Automotive News.
Hata wants Jatco to start making the low-cost transmission in 2016. The product will play a key role in Hata's plan to boost global sales 67 percent to ¥1 trillion, or about $11.35 billion, in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2019, he said.
"The emerging-market potential is huge," Hata said. "In India, 90 percent of transmissions are still manual. Brazil, still 90 percent are manual. For us, there is unlimited potential."
Hata, who came to Jatco in 2011, is aggressively expanding overseas, especially in markets with big growth potential. In November, he was named an Automotive News All-Star for Jatco's success in developing more efficient CVTs.
The low-cost transmission will be largely developed and made overseas, Hata said. To spearhead the project, Jatco will set up an overseas r&d center this year, likely in India, Indonesia or Russia.
Meanwhile, the CVT for EVs is aimed at extending the lives of the cars' expensive and heavy batteries.
Most EVs, including the Leaf, use a single reduction gear instead of a multispeed transmission.
But Jatco says that applying a CVT will allow the motor to operate in its sweet spot of peak efficiency. That will draw less power from the battery and increase driving range.
The CVT for EVs will be smaller than the typical CVT mated to an internal combustion engine, he said. The goal is to improve the EV motor's efficiency by 10 to 20 percent.
Nissan did not request the CVT; Jatco is developing it independently in the hope of selling it to Nissan. "The important message inside Jatco is, 'Don't wait for Nissan,'" he said.
Mounting a transmission on an electric car would add cost. But Hata said that the CVT would generate net savings because it would allow the motor and battery to be smaller.
Jatco makes only one part for the current Leaf: an aluminum casing for the car's DC-DC converter.
This year, Jatco will expand its Mexico plant's capacity to 1.2 million CVTs a year from 700,000.
Starting in 2016, that plant also will begin making traditional automatic transmissions for rear-wheel-drive cars. Those transmissions will be made under license using Mercedes technology and used in Nissan and Infiniti products.
"That requires expansion," Hata said. "Currently our Mexican factory is designed only for CVTs."
The new North American headquarters will open in Franklin, Tenn., outside Nashville, where Nissan also has its regional head office.
Jatco's office will coordinate operations between its r&d center outside Detroit and its factory in Mexico, while keeping close contact with its biggest customer, Nissan.
The office will open with a staff of around 20 people and grow to include sales, quality, purchasing and finance functions.
"We'd like to have a centralized function in North America, because customers are sometimes frustrated," Hata said. "Production is in Mexico, and the service point is in Detroit."
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