LOUISVILLE, KY.  An automated mechanical transmission that fills in the powertrain gap between Detroit diesel engines and axles has been introduced by Daimler Trucks North America. Based on a second generation automated mechanical currently sold by Daimler in Europe, the new Detroit transmission will initially be offered in Freightliners mated to a Detroit DD15 diesel, with U.S. production scheduled to begin in 2013.

Andreas Renschler, the head of parent Daimler Truck, said during a press conference at the Mid-America Trucking Show the new Detroit transmission “finishes the integrated powertrain” that began with the new generation of its proprietary Detroit engines  in 2010 followed by the introduction of Detroit axles last year.  “The powertrain is central to our future product competitiveness … because it is at the heart of the truck value chain.” The new transmission, Renschler said, makes DTNA the only U.S. truck manufacturer to offer a complete proprietary powertrain.

The Detroit transmission is a 12-spd. that uses electronics to control shifts and clutch actuation. It will be available in both direct and overdrive version and will initially be limited to on-highway applications.  Already the predominant heavy-duty transmission in Daimler’s European trucks, the Detroit version closely integrated with its engines should find its way into 25% of the company’s North American brands - Freightliner and Western Star - within two or three years, Renschler said. He added that a version for Detroit’s 13L diesel would follow at some later date.

Initially the new transmission will be built at Detroit’s Redman, MI, plant and moved to an undecided location as volumes ramp up, according to Mark Lampert, senior vice president of sales and marketing for DTNA. It will carry a premium over manual transmissions, but the fuel economy gains offered by the close integration with Detroit power “will provide a very attractive payback,” he said.

Technical features for the two-pedal automated mechanical include helical gears for lower noise, skip shifting for better fuel economy, active driveline protection, and extensive use of aluminum for lower weight.  It will offer drivers selective shift modes for performance or economy, enhanced cruise control and an optional hill-start aid to prevent roll-back on a standing start.