Tremec Shifts Gears Into Electric Mode

The manual transmission maker won’t be left behind by industry trends away from its original business.

Dan Carney, Senior Editor

May 1, 2024

7 Min Read
Power flow in Tremec's DCT.
Power flow in Tremec's DCT.Tremec

At a Glance

  • Company opened in 1964
  • Bought mechatronics specialist Hoerbiger in 2012 to position for automated transmissions
  • New Wixom, Michigan plant builds DCTs

Mexican manual transmission manufacturing specialist Tremec marks 60 years in business in 2024, a time that finds that its core business is under threat by the trend away from manual transmissions for combustion vehicles and away from combustion vehicles to EVs that typically employ single-speed transmissions in their electric drive units.

Tremec’s T-5 manual transmission was the hot setup for ‘80s cars like the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, and Pontiac Firebird. During the ‘90s, Tremec delivered the 6-speed T-56 gearbox, whose higher torque capacity satisfied the requirements for the V-10 Dodge Viper. But modern cars use transmissions that do not employ a clutch pedal and that shift gears automatically. The company even makes the internal gears used in most of the Class 8 trucks on American roads.

In response to the trend away from its original manual-shift products, Tremec has developed dual-clutch transmission technology that is used by high-profile halo models, such as the Maserati MC20, the Chevrolet Corvette, and the Ford Mustang Shelby GT500. Simultaneously, the company is plotting a course to electrification, reports Matt Memmer, director of engineering and program management.

“You could see where the market was shifting,” he recalled. An immediate response to that was to add technology to those familiar transmissions to incorporate features such as automatic rev matching for downshifts, to flatter drivers who might need some help with this task in a traditional H-pattern manual-shifter transmission.

Related:What is a Dual-Clutch Transmission?

Grasping Automation

“As we’ve seen the manuals decline, the question was, “How do we evolve and get into the automated side of the business?” Memmer recalled. “For us, a torque converter automatic was not the right thing. A dual-clutch transmission is effectively two manual gearboxes with a lot of complex controls.”

To address those complex controls, in 2012 Tremec’s corporate parent, Grupo Kuo, acquired Belgian mechatronics and software specialist Hoerbiger Mechatonics BVBA, making it Tremec’s Belgian location. At the time, Hoerbiger provided control systems for the Ferrari 458, AMG SLS, and McLaren MP4-12C super sports cars. “By combining Tremec’s strength in the mechanical side of the transmission, and Hoerbiger’s strength in software and mechatronics, we were able to build the 9080 in the Corvette and the 9070 that went into the GT500 Mustang,” Memmer said.

The Maserati and the Corvette both use Tremec’s TR-9080 8-speed transaxle, while the now-out-of-production GT500 used the TR-9070 7-speed transmission in a conventional longitudinal front-engine, rear-drive orientation. These transmissions share many of the same internal components and control systems, but obviously, the TR-9080s are in a different case that incorporates a differential than the TR-9070 uses.

Related:Why the Original Mid-Engine Corvette DCT Was Crazy Complicated

Individuality Matters

Even the two transaxles have important differences that reflect the different characters of the cars they’re used in. “[Maserati] needed a transaxle that fit into the vehicle, could handle the engine’s power, and could be refined to do what they needed that vehicle to do,” he said. “The MC20 is not the same car as the Corvette.”

“The Maserati feels like Maserati,” Memmer continued. “Our software really is key to how we do that. We’re able to integrate that into the vehicle and deliver the DNA of what that car is. If you drive those two vehicles they are quite different even though that transmission is largely the same.” The differences include the transmission’s shift strategy and shift modes. “That’s what Maserati was looking for, so they could give that characteristic and feel they wanted.”


Having to tease out the subtle differences between two very fast high-end sports cars is all in a day’s work at Tremec. “The best part of my job is that we work on cars that are phenomenal vehicles,” Memmer chuckled. “It is fun to work on those cars.”

Related:Ferrari SF90 Stradale Accelerates Through the Gears with Magna's 8-Speed Dual-Clutch Transmission

Building a transaxle required Tremec to develop new technical capabilities and manufacturing DCT transaxles for two models required additional capacity, so Tremec added staff and built a new facility in Wixom, Michigan. “Producing a transaxle with the differential integrated as well required us building up our team,” Memmer said.

“The DTCs are assembled in Wixom, a plant built specifically to build that DCT,” he said. “We are one of few Mexican companies that built a plant in Michigan. That didn’t exist when we started development for Corvette and Mustang. My team has grown dramatically over that period of time.”

Electric Drive

This build-up has let Tremec develop the know-how to move from transmissions for combustion engines to complete electric drive units. “That put in the foundation to go from the DCT world to the electrification side of the business,” Memmer said. “The engineering doesn’t care about which product we’re working on.”

Tremec’s traditional focus on enthusiast cars is beneficial as it moves into electric cars. “The goal is not just to go fast but be fun to drive and be engaging,” he said. “We see that carry over into the electric space. In some cases, the performance side is ahead of the mainstream.”

“Tremec has always been about not trying to be the very high-volume me-too product,” Memmer continued. “We try to differentiate on technology and work with customers to make the product fit.”


That product for the EV market is actually two products: a single-motor solution that drives the wheels through a differential and a dual-motor unit that assigns one motor to each side of the axle to provide torque vectoring.

Tremec’s strategy is to offer carmakers plug-and-play options to provide a high-performance variant of existing models with as little effort and cost as possible. The single motor direct drive unit makes about 400 horsepower and is suitable for adapting front-engine, rear-drive combustion vehicles to rear-drive as an aftermarket product.

For OEMs, Tremec offers an 800-hp dual-motor drive unit that can deliver 4,000 newton-meters of torque to the left and right wheels, each, with torque vectoring. Significantly, it tits in most existing chassis, letting carmakers add a more powerful version of an existing model. “We can offer an ability to put in a 600-kW dual-motor system without having to change the chassis.” Memmer said.

As a performance upgrade, the Tremec drive unit employs silicon-carbide power electronics as part of an overall focus on thermal management, so that these cars can be used for track days. “We want to be able to do an entire track session without thermal issues that cause the drive unit to de-rate,” he explained.

These products are undergoing testing now for delivery as soon as next year. “We’ve got a number of demo vehicles and working with the first version of those going into production,” Memmer said. Asked whether Tremec has a production contract for its electric drive unit, he clarified, saying, “We have development contracts working toward production contracts.”

The resulting vehicles could appear next year, he added, saying, “We are relatively close.”


The Future

These motors employ electric motors that use permanent magnets because of their advantage in power density. But Tremec is very aware of the concerns surrounding the rare-earth metals used by such motors, and the company has its eye on solutions to eliminate rare earths in future products.

“We’ve got some of the most power-dense solutions on the market,” said Memmer. “That’s a space that’s evolving quickly.” Potential alternatives include axial-flux motors, as McLaren and Lamborghini have applied to the hybrid-electric models. “Axial flux is somewhat limited for our applications,” Memmer noted.

“The goal is eliminating rare earth content,” he said. “In the next few years, there are other options we will try to ingrate. SPM [Surface Permanent Magnet] performance, but not use rare earths; that would be a great solution.”

About the Author(s)

Dan Carney

Senior Editor, Design News

Dan’s coverage of the auto industry over three decades has taken him to the racetracks, automotive engineering centers, vehicle simulators, wind tunnels, and crash-test labs of the world.

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