Getrag Ford Transmissions GmbH, a new joint venture in manual transmissions between Getrag and Ford of Europe, is predicting sales of E870 million this year.
German transmission maker Getrag and Ford signed a deal to create the joint venture on January 31.
Getrag Ford will run Ford's three manual transmission plants in Europe: Bordeaux, France; Cologne, Germany; and Halewood, England. The 3,700 employees at the factories will work directly for the joint venture.
Currently, Getrag Ford has the capacity to build 2 million manual transmissions a year, according to David Thursfield, Ford of Europe president and CEO. The plan is to increase that capacity and eventually supply other automakers besides Ford with manual transmissions.
Ford and Getrag are investing E550 million to develop the business.
Ford wants to be a leader in engines and transmissions, areas where it has not been very strong in the past. In particular, the joint venture will move to meet growing demand for six-speed and auto-shift manual transmissions.
'We have a great opportunity to combine the strengths of both companies and take a leadership position in technology, product and manufacturing,' said Tobias Hagenmeyer, president of Getrag and CEO of the joint venture, in a statement.
Mihir Kotecha from Ford will serve as chief financial officer and Getrag's Gunter Knoedel will be director of engineering. A director of manufacturing, yet to be named, will come from Ford. A strategy board will also be named.
The joint venture is part of Ford's 'European Transformation Strat-egy,' designed to cut costs and improve profitability. Ford will be monitoring the joint venture closely to see whether any lessons learnt can be applied elsewhere.
'It's a pretty big test case,' said Thursfield.
Ford may look to form other joint ventures if this one cuts costs and improves utilization of assets as expected, he added.
Thursfield said the first results of the joint venture should start appearing in 2002-2003. It can cost several hundred million euros to develop a new manual transmission, he said.
Getrag Ford will continue to produce the IB5, MT75, MTX75 and VXT75 manual transmissions used in Ford's current European models. Together, the three plants in France, Germany and England made 1.6 million transmissions last year.
Getrag, one of the world's leading manual transmission makers, produced 1.2 million transmissions and rear axles in 2000. It reported sales of E833 million.