Mannesmann Sachs AG and Siemens Automotive Systems Group have formed a joint venture to collaborate on the development of automated manual transmissions.
An automated manual transmission is a standard manual transmission in which normal clutch control and gear shifting are made by either electrohydraulic or electromechanical actuators.
The automated manual transmission aims to combine the ease of an automatic gearbox with the driving experience offered by a manual transmission.
Only 1 percent of cars produced in Europe are fitted with automated manual transmissions. Mannes-mann Sachs and Siemens expect this figure will rise to 3 percent in 2003 and 8 percent by 2005.
The partners say automated manual transmissions are lighter, more compact, and offer greater fuel economy than traditional gearboxes. The greatest potential for the technology is in Europe, where automatic transmissions are less popular than in other parts of the world.
Mannesmann Sachs has expertise in electromechanical automated manual transmissions, while Siemens' specialty is electrohydraulic automated manual transmissions.
The appeal of Formula One - with its button-shift manual transmissions - also has broadened the market for automated manual transmissions in Europe. Automated manual transmissions are already fitted to such cars as the Alfa Romeo 156, Ferrari 360 and BMW M3.
The systems also are used in Micro Compact Car's Smart and Volkswagen's Lupo to save weight and improve fuel economy, Mannesmann Sachs said.
The partners also see prospects for the system in lightweight commercial vehicles.
The first automated manual transmission project between the two German supplier giants will begin production in early 2001.
Mannesmann Sachs AG, part of the Mannesmann Group, has about 25 percent of the European clutch market. It had sales of euro 2.15 billion ($2.16 billion) in 1998.
Siemens Automotive Systems Group is owned by Siemens AG. It had sales of euro 3.15 billion ($3.17 billion) in its fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.