Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Auto News 11/29/04, Part I
First up is the news that ZF is failing to find any business for their new 7-speed auto, despite the fact that it's been on the market for 14 months. This one seems real simple to me - a modern larger-displacement engine of the type normally used in luxury cars makes a lot of power over a very wide range of engine speed. Fuel economy does not seem to be a major issue for most buyers, especially those in the upper end of the market. And besides, the additional weight and complexity that surely must come with those extra ranges cannot be attractive to powertrain engineers. Combine all of these factors, and a 7-speed transmission just looks silly. Most larger vehicles can make do with 4 or 5 at the most; perhaps a compact car with a very "peaky" engine could make use of that many ranges (indeed, some two-stroke sportbikes use 7-speed transmissions), but that's highly unlikely given the cost pressure on that segment of the market.
Subaru is looking at diesel power, and will be building the world's only (first?) passenger-car horizontally-opposed diesel by 2008. This is due to the fact that their platforms will apparently not accept anything but a boxer engine layout. If they offer this engine in the US, I think they'll grab a big chunk of the market. They've already shown a prowlness for building a significant customer base by offering unique vehicles; this will only add to their appeal, in my opinion.