Brake and clutch specialist FTE Automotive is developing automated transmission systems with fellow German supplier Getrag.
The two companies are working on several automated manual-transmission projects, in one case under a joint development contract.
Dana Corp., of Toledo, Ohio, owns 100 percent of FTE and has a 30 percent stake in Getrag, a transmission supplier based in Ludwigsburg, Germany.
FTE, based in Ebern, Germany, was the first manufacturer to develop an antilock braking system for motorcycles.
FTE supplies components for automated manual transmissions on the market, including Magneti Marelli's Selespeed system. But FTE Automotive CEO Bernhard Fischenich expects rapid growth in the next few years as installation rates increase when more advanced automated manual transmissions become available.
"Our objective is to be a supplier of the complete system, to really increase our content per vehicle," Fischenich said.
The move from manual clutch actuation to automated gear shifts involves systems worth hundreds of thousands of dollars instead of tens of thousands of dollars, said Fischenich. "It's a good increase."
European car buyers traditionally have preferred manual to automatic transmissions, mainly because they are cheaper and offer better performance.
But the latest automated manual transmissions - notably the Easytronic system that is available on the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa - offer automatic shifts with a fuel economy equal to or better than a manual.
With automated manual transmissions, gear changes can be carried out automatically or the driver can choose to make them independently.
Development of automated manual transmissions was driven by Formula One racing, which demands rapid gear changes at optimum engine speeds.
Volkswagen AG is FTE's largest customer, accounting for 31 percent of sales. All the other major European and U.S. carmakers are clients, but no other manufacturer makes up more than 25 percent of sales. FTE also has big hopes for its antilock braking system for motorcycles.
FTE is BMW's only supplier of motorcycle antilock brakes, and Peugeot recently made the FTE system standard fit on its top-end Elystar scooter.