GAGGENAU, Germany — The first production model Detroit DT12 automated manual transmissions are now rolling off an assembly line at Daimler’s Gagennau, Germany powertrain plant.
Transmissions destined for the North American market will be built here until sometime in 2015, when production will shift to the company’s Redford, Mich. plant. The DT12 is currently available with the Detroit DD15 engine in the Freightliner Cascadia. The first installation is expected to take place May 6 at Freightliner’s Cleveland, N.C. truck plant.
Daimler is expecting to sell about 3,000 Freightliner tractors with the DT12 transmission this year alone. Currently, AMTs comprise about 10-15% of the North American truck market, but it’s a steadily growing segment.
In Germany, all Mercedes-Benz trucks feature a complete Daimler powertrain, the vast majority with an automated manual transmission. About 90% of the parts in the DT12 are derived from the European version. The most notable difference is that the DT12 has been converted to 12-volt power, from 24.
The high parts commonality benefits customers, because economies of scale allow Daimler to minimize its production costs, Dr. Frank Reintjes, head of global powertrain, procurement and manufacturing engineering with Daimler Trucks told a group of visiting trucking journalists today.
In North America, the DT12 will be made available with the DD13 engine this October and the DD16 next May. Availability in other models, including Western Star, and the planned launch of eight- and 16-speed versions of the transmission are still being worked out.
Daimler officials said the DT12 offers a 54 kg (119 lb) weight savings, thanks to its single coutershaft design and use of aluminum within the housing. It can handle GVWRs of up to 60 tonnes and is available in four versions, suiting a wide range of applications.
Features include: eCoast, which allows the truck to coast down a grade without consuming fuel; skip shift, which uses aggressive skip shifting to get the truck into top gear sooner; active driveline protection; and optional direct drive. Drivers can switch between Performance and Economy modes or can override the gear selection in situations that warrant it.
Brad Williamson, manager of engine and component marketing with Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), said fleets could see fuel savings of about 4% compared to trucks equipped with manual transmissions. Reintjes added the top-performing drivers in a fleet will be able to match, or come close to matching, the performance of the DT12, but those drivers are getting harder to find.
“To get educated, experienced, well-trained drivers is one of the major challenges everywhere,” he said. “The average driver is significantly below the performance of what automated transmissions are offering as potential fuel consumption reductions.”
Fleet testing conducted by DTNA has shown a significant reduction in fuel consumption when the DT12 was placed into the fleet and benchmarked against trucks with manual transmissions, Williamson added.
Other benefits of automated transmissions in general include easier handling and less driver fatigue. They’re particularly beneficial when bringing on and training drivers with limited experience.
The DT12 is being offered with a five-year/750,000 mile warranty.
When production shifts to Redford, capacity will be for about 20,000-30,000 transmissions per year. The transmissions assembled there will predominantly be sold into the North American market.
Williamson said initial fleet response to the DT12 has been excellent, and drivers like it too, even if they’re initially resistant to the concept of automated transmissions.
“It’s going to be a great product,” he said. “It’s going to change the market in terms of what drivers accept.”
Daimler itself has good reason to be pushing a fully-integrated powertrain. Reintjes pointed out globally, the powertrain accounts for about 50% of the truck’s value chain. It also influences about 37% of a truck’s total cost of ownership (TCO).
“If the powertrain or its components collapse, the truck is done,” Reintjes said. “If the truck operates (customers) hate two things: too high fuel consumption and trucks being off the road and not earning money.”
Offering a completely integrated powertrain gives Daimler more control over the performance of its vehicles. It also allows the manufacturer to optimize performance between the engine, transmission and other components.
AMTs in general cost more than manual transmissions. Daimler officials said the DT12 will be priced comparably to other automated transmissions. There are currently 16 fleets in North America running pre-production DT12s and Williamson said they’re looking to add more to their fleets.
The DT12 is being offered with Virtual Technician, which remotely monitors fault codes and then provides guidance to the customer when a problem is encountered, reducing downtime.