Speed electronically controlled transmission will be in production by the end of the year. The first series-built car to use it will be the six-speed Ferrari F355.
The transmission - Magneti Marelli powertrain division's first gear control product - debuted on a Formula One Ferrari in 1989.
The new gearbox works both as a manual and automatic. A gear lever is used to shift up and down when operated as a manual, or it can employ two buttons or a joystick on the instrument panel. On the 355 the gear change is done using two pedals behind the steering wheel's lateral spokes, as on Formula One cars.
The gear actuators are hydraulic. They replace the gear levers in a normal transmission.
As a manual, SeleSpeed can be used in three modes: normal, sport and ice. The sport setting allows faster gear changes. The ice setting is for slippery surfaces. When switched to fully automatic there are two settings: normal and ice.
During gear changes, SeleSpeed's central processing unit controls the engine management system.
But during normal driving, the central processing unit is controlled by the engine management system.
SeleSpeed can work with engine management systems made by other manufacturers. On the F355, for example, the engine management is a Bosch Motronic.
SeleSpeed adds 5kg to the weight of a typical manual transmission.
Although the unit itself weighs more than 5kg, the hydraulic links are much lighter than the gear levers and clutch pedal they replace.
Magneti Marelli won't give exact prices for the system. The company said it would cost about half as much as a traditional automatic, even though it offers more gears, six in the case of the Ferrari.
Magneti Marelli aims to make 200,000-300,000 SeleSpeed units a year beginning in 2000. By then SeleSpeed will be offered by six carmakers.
Besides the F355, the system will be offered in the Alfa Romeo 166 and by two volume automakers in Germany and two in France.
Volumes are expected to rise slowly because SeleSpeed will be offered first on top of the range models.
It won't appear on volume models before 2000.