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November 23, 2015

Daimler Adds DT12 Production to Redford

The DT12, 12-speed automated transmission goes into
 production at the Detroit plat in Redford, Michigan. 
The transmission introduced only two years ago 
now features in 40% of Freightliner production.

The 12-speed DT12 automated transmission offered in Freightliner and Western Star brands by Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) has, in just two years, reached a 40 percent penetration in DTNA’s commercial vehicle line-up. Small wonder, then, that it is now in production at the Detroit plant in Redford, MI, just outside of Detroit city.

The transmission was already well proven in Daimler’s European Mercedes-Benz trucks before it launched in the United States and production for the states has been out of the transmission plant in Gaggenau, Germany. But the intention all along was to bring production here and to that effect, teams from Detroit trained in Gaggenau for up to six months to ensure a smooth start-up of American manufacture.

And it has been smooth. The plant began building the transmission only a month ago in late October and is already running at 120 units per day.

So the Redford Detroit plant now makes DD13, 15 and 16 engines (the heavy duty engine platform or HDEP), a complete range of drive and steer axles and now transmissions stamping the Detroit brand on the whole made-in-Detroit powertrain.

And at the inaugurating ceremony in November, that made-in-Detroit sentiment was to the forefront, with guests from Michigan governor Rick Snyder to state legislators and senior managers that included trucks chief Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard and DTNA president Martin Daum.

“Michigan has long-been the world’s automotive leader and we are proud that Daimler will continue to play a big role in our state’s reinvention moving forward,” said Gov. Snyder. “This is an investment in Detroit and the hardworking people of Michigan.”

Dignitaries in Redford, from left - Roger Penske “savior of Detroit
Diesel”; Martin Daum, chief executive DTNA, Dr. Wolfgang Bernhard,
chief executive, Daimler Trucks; D. Frank Reintjes, Chief of
Daimler Truck powertrains; Detroit plant operations chief Jeff Allen;
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder 
Also present was Roger Penske, who received a standing ovation from the nearly 2,000 Detroit staff, assembled for the occasion.

And it’s easy to see why Penske is so popular at Detroit.

The plant is the old headquarters of Detroit Diesel Allison. In its latter days when it was owned by General Motors, Detroit Diesel penetration in the heavy truck market had fallen to just 3 percent. It had been impacted by the troubled Silver 92, two-cycle engine but it was on the point of launching the Series 60 in a cooperative venture with John Deere. But Deere backed out.

In stepped Roger Penske in 1988, purchasing the plant and bringing a whole new attitude on board. Within six months he had shaken things up with fresh paint and strong leadership and launched the Series 60 as his engine, an engine that turned the company around and gained a 30 percent penetration by the time it was superseded by the global DD15.

The Series 60 has only just gone out of production in Redford. Those markets with lower emissions expectations are still served by Series 60, though the engines are produced by Detroit Reman in Tooele, Utah.

The additional space freed up in Redford, plus a significant 100-million-dollar investment and the employment of 170 new workers is what makes it possible to assemble the transmissions there.

The DT12 is a sophisticated electronically controlled non synchro transmission. Electro magnetic X- Y-shifters and automated clutch select gears as a driver would, giving the fuel economy of a manual with the ease of driving of an automatic, said Dr. Bernhard at the launch. 

In driving, the transmission skips shifts for smooth shifts and maximum economy. It is part of the standard spec for the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution.

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