Van Doorne Transmission has formed a 50-50 joint venture with Japanese gearbox maker Aisin to capitalize on growth in continuously variable transmissions.
The Dutch firm will license its CVT belt technology to the joint venture, which will build CVTs in Japan.
Aisin will initially invest E35 million and begin producing CVT belts in Japan at a rate of 400,000 units a year. Van Doorne built 600,000 CVT belts last year and expects to double that in 2002.
Van Doorne has 94 percent of the global CVT belt market. Germany's LuK and Japan's Toroide and Bandobelt split the rest. Van Doorne is a Bosch subsidiary but was previously owned by the Van Doorne family, heirs of CVT inventor Hub Van Doorne.
CVTs offer automatic gear changes with a single engine 'speed.' Unlike conventional transmissions with a direct linkage through gears between the engine and drive wheels, CVTs use rubber or steel push belts with variably sized pulleys.
'We expect a further progressive growth for CVTs,' said Emery Hendriks, Van Doorne head of product planning. 'In 2010 our annual output will reach 4 million belts, including more than 1 million from [Japan].'
Van Doorne is developing CVT belts for bigger engines. A single-belt Van Doorne CVT can handle an engine with 420Nm of torque.
Van Doorne expects 10 percent of new Minis to use CVTs and said the next European application will be the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra.