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ZF ends production of 6-speed automatic transmission

ABR Staff Writer Published 01 April 2014

With the end of the 6HP production at the ZF location in Saarbrücken, the rise to fame of this product that has conquered many markets is coming to an end: As the first 6-speed automatic transmission for passenger cars worldwide it caused a stir within the entire industry when it was launched in 2001 – before it quickly became a millionfold bestseller offered in many versions.

Following in the tradition of the 6HP, the second generation of the 8-speed automatic transmission by ZF (8HP) is now setting new standards in efficiency and shifting performance.

13 percent lighter, up to 7 percent more economical, with significantly reduced noise levels, and considerably better acceleration values than its predecessor with 5 gears: These were the benchmark data of the first 6HP generation when it started rolling off the assembly line at the ZF location in Saarbrücken from April 2001 onwards - after a development time of only four years. Only a few months later, the compact automatic transmission premiered at the International Motor Show installed in a BMW 7 Series sedan with an eight-cylinder engine. An impressive success story has been written between now and then - a story with a worthy end: The last 6HP left the plant in March 2014, and it was produced for a model of the British premium car brand Jaguar.

More than seven million
After a production time of almost 13 years, ZF has counted exactly 7 050 232 units of its 6-speed automatic transmission for passenger cars. "The demand for this innovative transmission has grown very quickly and very strongly which enabled us to win more and more customers and conquer new vehicle segments," said Michael Hankel, Member of the ZF Board of Management and responsible for Car Powertrain Technology and Car Chassis Technology. "During peak periods, we produced up to 4 500 units of the 6HP in a three-shift operation; the annual record lies clearly above one million". Also the transmission's further development contributed to its ongoing strong demand: Starting from 2006, the 6HP scored additionally with response times below the human perception threshold and further fuel saving potential between three and six percent. During the entire production time, 16 different automotive manufacturers have trusted this transmission and have equally installed it in their luxury limousines, SUVs, mid-size convertibles, and sports cars. In order to cover this wide application spectrum, eleven variants of the 6HP were available at the end - always customized for the respective driveline setup and torque requirements between 230 and 750 Nm.

The 6HP won the renowned PACE Award presented by the technical journal "Automotive News" for excellent innovations by automotive manufacturers as early as 2002. Eight years later, ZF won the same award for the 8HP which sets the latest benchmark for automatic transmissions for cars with rear- and all-wheel drive.

More gears, more advantages
There are many more things that the 6HP and 8HP have in common: The dimensions are almost identical, and BMW was again the first customer to order the 8-speed automatic transmission which has been produced in Saarbrücken since 2008 and, additionally, in Gray Court, South Carolina, USA, since 2013.However, regarding technology, the 8HP offers advantages which go far beyond the two additional gears; these also provide an explanation why ZF currently produces approximately 8 800 units per day for automotive manufacturers worldwide: "The first generation was already designed as a flexible modular system; its weight was reduced, it was capable of start/stop operation and allowed to reduce fuel consumption by up to 11 percent compared to the 6HP," Mr. Hankel said. With the 8HP full hybrid variant, fuel efficiency was increased by an additional 25 percent. However, the leader in chassis and driveline technology is not resting on its laurels: In July 2014, ZF started volume production of the next 8HP development level. "Thanks to numerous optimizations, the second generation of the 8HP assists our customers even more effectively in meeting the increasingly stringent legal CO2 standards - and it does so in a cost-efficient way as it is combined with standard or hybridized drive systems," Hankel emphasizes. By the way: ZF is not saying a final goodbye to the 6HP. The ZF transmission plant in Shanghai will continue to produce units for the Chinese markets.

Source: Company Press Release