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Old 01-22-2003, 07:10   #1 (permalink)
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Ford sets date for CVT production;

ZF-made transmission to get first test in Europe

By AMY WILSON | Automotive News

ZF Friedrichshafen AG's U.S.-made continuously variable transmission is poised to get its first test in a European Ford Focus derivative this year.

After a number of delays, ZF will start production in the fourth quarter of 2003 on the first of two CVTs to be produced at a former Ford plant in Batavia, Ohio, by a ZF-Ford Motor Co. joint venture.

ZF and Ford executives would only say that the first transmission, the CFT 23, will be shipped to Europe for a Ford vehicle. But an industry analyst identified the recipients as the Focus, plus a tall wagon or vanlike version of that car.

The derivative, dubbed the Focus MFV, will be the first test of the Batavia-built CVT, said Eric Fedewa, director of global powertrain forecasts for CSM Worldwide, a forecasting firm in Northville, Mich.

Installation in the Focus will begin in early 2004, and CVT volume for both vehicles could reach 30,000 at full production.

The CFT 23 is likely to go into additional European vehicles after its Focus debut, Fedewa said.

The Batavia plant's second continuously variable transmission - the CFT 30, for higher-torque vehicles - goes into production in early 2004 and will initially go to Ford's Chicago assembly plant for the Ford Freestyle and Five Hundred. Ford has said it will start building those vehicles in 2004.

Volume for that CVT is uncertain, but the Chicago plant is being revamped to produce nearly 300,000 vehicles per year. Another transmission will be offered there, and the Batavia transmission won't be limited to just the Chicago vehicles.

"The benefits of the CVT are huge, so it's in their best interest to try to apply that across the product range," Fedewa said.

ZF plans to market the transmission family to other automakers, and ZF CEO Siegfried Goll projected that Batavia's CVT production could reach 700,000 units annually by 2007.

The Batavia plant could ultimately produce as many as 1 million transmissions a year, but market demand for CVTs is unclear, Fedewa said. Technological refinements and some drivers' reluctance to accept stepless shifting have slowed the use of seamless transmissions. ZF is offering a tip-shift function on its Batavia CVTs to overcome that reluctance
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