GKN’s AWD Disconnect system gains traction in China

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GKN Driveline’s Chinese Joint Venture partner SDS has commenced production of its Disconnect AWD system for small to medium-sized vehicles in China. Disconnect enables vehicles to combine the traction, dynamics and stability properties of AWD with improved on-highway fuel efficiency. The system reacts to driver inputs and road conditions to seamlessly switch between two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.

During steady-state cruising, the clutch system disengages the rear section of the driveline, eliminating rotating losses and improves highway fuel economy by up to 4% compared to standard AWD, according to GKN. If the driver or conditions require more traction, the system reconnects within 300 milliseconds.

The system will initially feature on the Jeep Renegade built for the Chinese market by GAC Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (GAC FCA) in Guangzhou City.

GKN manufactures the complete all-wheel drive system, including the power transfer unit (PTU), rear drive module (RDM), propshaft and sideshafts, as well as supplying software controls. SDS will then supply GAC FCA from its production facility in Shanghai.

The move marks a milestone in the growth of GKN’s AWD business in China. SDS successfully localized production of PTUs and RDMs for JLR models in 2015, including the Range Rover Evoque and Land Rover Discovery Sport, as well as localizing production for two further automakers last year. More localization programs are due to start production for a range of manufacturers over the next two years, according to the company.

SDS has added six new AWD assembly lines and a new hypoid gear production line across two of its facilities in Shanghai during the past 18 months, as well as testing and other equipment, to support growing levels of business. The investment significantly expanded the company’s AWD production capacity in China.

Phil Swash, CEO of GKN Driveline said, “GKN has capabilities to manufacture sophisticated AWD systems on a global basis and that’s why automakers choose to partner with us on their mega-platforms. The demand for AWD vehicles is growing at a rapid rate in China, and GKN and SDS have a number of localization and domestic programs in the pipeline for the coming years.”

GKN’s scalable AWD Disconnect system was first launched on the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X subcompact crossover SUVs. As well as China, GKN builds the system at facilities in Europe and North America, and supplies the system in India and South America.

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Adam divides his time as an editor between the worlds of aviation and motoring. These worlds may seem a little diverse today, but autonomous technology and future urban mobility is bringing them ever-closer. Adam is also chairman of the Vehicle Dynamics International Awards.

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