The Group continues to invest significantly in improving transmission systems, focusing in particular on optimizing engine-transmission pairings.
The primary objective is to develop the most efficient powertrain solutions for each vehicle segment in order to significantly reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
By striking an optimal balance between performance, fuel economy and costs, the Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), adopted by the Group for small cars and light commercial vehicles, can cut CO2 emissions by 5% compared with traditional manual transmissions (New European Driving Cycle - NEDC). The AMT, developed and produced by Magneti Marelli, is based on the electro-hydraulic automation of manual transmissions, and combines comfort with a reduction in fuel consumption and emissions. It replaces gear selection and clutch activation with electro-hydraulic components, using an electronic control unit to select the correct gear for all driving conditions.
Chrysler Group’s eight-speed rear-wheel drive automatic transmission is available on the Ram 1500 pickup, Chrysler 300, Lancia Thema, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Grand Cherokee SRT, and Dodge Durango and Charger. Depending on the application, this transmission contributes to fuel economy improvements of up to 12%, compared with the previous five-speed and six-speed transmissions it replaces. It will ultimately be used on all rear-wheel drive vehicles except for the heavy-duty diesel versions of the Ram truck.
In 2013, a new nine-speed front-wheel-drive transmission was introduced on the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, and on the recently revealed 2015 Chrysler 200. In addition to improved fuel economy over a six-speed automatic transmission, the Cherokee’s nine-speed transmission delivers customer driving benefits such as quicker acceleration and smoother shifting. The Chrysler 200 is the world’s first mid-size sedan to feature a nine-speed automatic transmission, which comes standard. When equipped with the available award-winning 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine, which delivers best-in-class 295 horsepower, the Chrysler 200 sedan’s highway fuel economy is improved by nearly 13% compared with the outgoing model.
Additionally, the Dual Dry Clutch Transmission (DDCT) technology, already available on the Alfa Romeo MiTo, Giulietta and Dodge Dart, was extended in 2013, to include the Fiat 500L in the US. This transmission incorporates 23 patented technologies. It offers significant reductions in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, as well as improved driving comfort. The DDCT combines the basic mechanical system of a conventional manual transmission with an electronically controlled shifting system operated by the driver like an automatic transmission.
Further innovations are being introduced with respect to All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) systems. Starting in 2012, Fiat Panda was equipped with two newly developed AWD systems: a six-speed version for gasoline and a five-speed for diesel. A new generation of AWD systems used on future Front-Wheel Drive (FWD)-based architectures will further enhance fuel economy. By utilizing a power disconnect to the auxiliary axle, the AWD system can completely remove power to the non-driven axle when FWD performance is sufficient. The system automatically selects FWD or AWD and can seamlessly switch modes as needed to minimize fuel consumption.
The new 2014 Jeep Cherokee offers a choice of three innovative four-wheel-drive systems to deliver best-in-class capability regardless of weather conditions. All three systems feature a rear-axle disconnect resulting in reduced energy loss when four-wheel drive isn’t needed and improved fuel efficiency. The rear-axle disconnect seamlessly switches between two- and four-wheel drive for full-time torque management and does not require input from the driver. The Cherokee is the industry's first mid-size sport-utility vehicle (SUV) to feature a front-wheel-drive-based rear-axle disconnect system.
With respect to transmissions, innovation efforts have focused mainly on the evolution of Dual Clutch systems currently available on the Alfa Romeo MiTo and Giulietta, Dodge Dart and Fiat Viaggio, optimizing the mechatronics system and its integration into the gearbox as well as control system functions to enhance the driving experience and increase fuel economy.