GAGGENAU, GERMANY.  Production of a new heavy-duty automated mechanical transmission (AMT) for the North American market has begun ramping up at Daimler Truck’s global powertrain plant in Germamy’s Black Forest.  The first Freightliner Cascadia models with the new 12-speed will head down the assembly line at the company’s Cleveland, NC, plant on May 6.

Initially, the new automated will only be available in the Cascadia with its propriety Detroit DD15 engine. Availability of the automated transmission with the DD13 will be added in October, followed by the DD16 next year, according to Daimler officials. No timetable was announced for availability in other Freightliner and Western Star models.

Daimler announced earlier this year that it will move assembly of the DT12 to its Detroit engine and axle factory in Redford, MI, sometime in 2015. Global production of the automated mechanical, which has been on the market for two years in European Mercedes brand trucks, could conceivably be moved from Gaggenau to the Detroit plant, accounting to Dr. Frank Reintjes, head of Daimler Truck’s Powertrain operations, but only if it serves the company’s strategy of “global optimization.”

Daimler followed a similar strategy in reverse with its new heavy duty engine platform, which was originally developed and built by the Detroit Redford facility. When that engine was subsequently launched in the company’s European trucks, production for the local market was established in its Mannheim, Germany, plant.

The AMT has quickly became the dominant long-haul truck transmission in Europe since its introduction two years ago in the new generation Mercedes Actros, according to Reintjes.  While adoption by US long-haul fleets is expected to be somewhat slower, he said “a good two-digit penetration figure is within sight” given its potential to lower total cost of ownership for users.

In addition to improved fuel economy in the range of 4% compared to the average driver, claimed benefits for the DT12 include lower driver fatigue, lighter weight and less clutch wear for lower maintenance costs and better uptime.

Features include a range of advanced electronic controls that provide skip shifting, coasting under downhill conditions, driveline protection, three driver-selectable operating modes and optional direct drive.  Matched with the DD15, it’s rated for 455 to 505 hp. with peak torque inputs of 1,550 to 1,750 lbs. ft. and is fully integrated with Detroit’s Virtual Technician onboard diagnostic system. The standard warranty is 5 yrs./750,000 mi.

In addition to future availability with the DD13 and DD16 Detroit engines, Daimler plans to eventually add 8- and 16- speed variants, according to Reintjes.