By on December 3, 2013

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In the wake of quality and customer satisfaction with the continuously variable transmissions Nissan has been buying from affiliated supplier Jatco Ltd., the automaker is increasing oversight over the supplier. Nissan has experienced glitches as it launched a number of new models offering the CVT. The automaker is also expanding capacity around the world, putting additional pressure on their suppliers.

Earlier this year, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn singled out Jatco by name, saying that Nissan will require it to explain how it will ensure customer satisfaction on any new transmission that it introduces. He also said that customer service issues with Jatco transmissions have affected Nissan’s profitability.

“Every time you launch a new CVT you always have some risks,” Ghosn said last month. “So we now have a process by which, before we launch any new CVT, they come before the Nissan executive committee to explain all the measures they have taken to make sure there are no surprises.”

Nissan holds a 75% stake in Jatco and Ghosn is reassigning its most senior North American manufacturing and supply chain executive, Bill Krueger, to Jatco, where he will be executive vice president in charge o Jatco’s operations in the United States and Mexico. Tomoyoshi Sato, who held that position previously, will return to Japan for a new assignment.

Jatco in part blames customer perception and unfamiliarity with how CVTs operate. Jatco CEO Takashi Hata said that some Nissan owners are not comfortable with how Jatco’s continuously variable transmissions work. Nissan’s small-car strategy is based on Jatco’s CVTs, but Nissan’s use of the fuel efficient transmissions has spread to most of their cars. CVTs are the automatic transmission offered for every car and crossover in the Nissan line, except for the Leaf EV and sports cars like the 370Z and GT-R.

Jatco’s has improved its CVT’s performance with reduced friction and greater operating efficiency which has helped Nissan be at or near the best fuel economy in their segments.

Customers have complained about the CVTs to Nissan dealers, probably because they are used to how conventional planetary gear automatic transmissions work. CVTs have no fixed gears so the engine RPM don’t rise and fall as the transmission works through stepped ratios. To an unfamiliar driver a car with a CVT can sound like it’s stuck in one gear.

Jatco will take an unusual step for a supplier and work directly with Nissan dealers in the U.S. to provide more consumer information about CVTs and also gather consumer feedback about its transmissions.

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44 Comments on “Nissan Pushes Jatco to Resolve CVT Issues...”


  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    Oh yeah. It’s all the customer’s fault. Those darn customers.

    Well I know how CVTs operate: They sound like something terrible is happening. Transmission failure. The engine winds up with no apparent reaction/reason. Over and over. Every stop. Lovely.

    NEVER GOING TO BUY ONE.

    • 0 avatar
      Halftruth

      Can’t agree with you there, Detroit. Wife’s CVT works perfectly and without any surprises. While I would not buy one myself, I can see the positives of the technology.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-X

        What vehicle would that be? I certainly haven’t experienced them all.

        And then there’s the durability factor. I expect, and I get, 200k+ trouble-free miles with my auto-trans, with the proper maint. of course.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Our previous car—which we sold in August—was a 2005 Nissan Murano SL, which had a CVT. It did have that rubber-band syndrome, but it never seemed like there was anything wrong with it. Certainly it didn’t sound like it was failing. What’s more, if customers are test-driving these Nissans, surely they notice the CVT’s characteristics. And if they think a car “sounds like it’s stuck in one gear,” why are they buying it in the first place?

        • 0 avatar
          Detroit-X

          Lots of people can’t concentrate to an important matter, even if their life depended on it.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            Ah. I forget that lots of people are so caught up in the allure of a shiny new car at the dealership—or are *so* set on getting a certain car—that they forget to make sure they actually like its driving characteristics. I will say that if customers are complaining, though, Nissan and Jatco should indeed look at doing things differently. The CVT in the new Accord is much better than any CVT Nissan has ever built, so there’s room for improvement.

          • 0 avatar
            aftashock617

            You can’t test every scenario when you are test driving a car. You are usually told where to go during a test drive. I have the 2013 Altima and had the 2010 Sentra before. You do have to get used to the CVT, but you wouldn’t tell these things in a test drive. Cause most engines will rev under hard acceleration and remain low on light acceleration. Going up hills and down hills when the CVT does weird stuff, or over time with wear on the transmission when it gets the rubber band feeling more often then not. So even though people may not be able to concentrate on an important matter has no real value in this discussion.

            My relative has the 2013 Accord CVT, it seems better but won’t know until long term. It probably feels better because it always acts as a traditional transmission, simulating gear changes.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      You know, if they’re test-driving the car, not taking note of the characteristic, then buying it, THEN complaining about the CVT characteristic, then yes, it is the darn customer’s fault. They either knew what they were getting into or didn’t bother paying attention to what they were getting into.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheeljack

        That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t stop the customer from coming in to the service department and complaining about the perceived “problem”. In a lot of cases, I’m sure the dealer attemts some sort of a repair, which validates the customer’s perception.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Detroit-X – - –

      Do any major German car makers offer a CVT?
      Does that tell you something?

      ——————

      • 0 avatar
        nvdw

        Audi does: the A4 and A6 with 2.0 TFSI and FWD use what is called a multitronic (= chain-driven CVT) as standard.

        Mercedes has used a CVT in the now outgoing generation A- and B-Class.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    A friend with a V6 Altima was on #4 when he traded it for a Camry at 95K miles.

    Personally, I think all automatics suck, so you might as well have a really efficient one if you are going to have one at all. I hope they iron out the issues.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      OEMs have been experiencing problems with CVT’s as far back as before 1972 when they were used in the Dutch Doornse Automobiel Fabriek (DAF) cars.

      Later when Volvo bought them out and used them in their 300-series Euro-spec cars the same problems recurred even though the technology and belt-metallurgy had improved immensely. It’s the belt that wears, not the cones.

      CVT’s are a cheaper option to planetary-gear stepped hydraulic transmissions but currently they do not fare as well.

      A friend of ours had TWO CVTs go bad in her Murano within the five years she owned it.

      The first time it was fixed under warranty but she was without transportation for two weeks. The second time the CVT went stupid on her she bought a 2012 Grand Cherokee Limited 5.7 with the planetary-gear stepped hydraulic transmission, and she is a happy camper.

      CVTs may be the wave of the future for several reasons but that doesn’t mean they will be as good. More efficient? Maybe. More failure prone? It would appear so.

      And that is OK too as long as you don’t keep the car beyond the factory warranty period. Let the fix be someone else’s worry and expense.

      • 0 avatar
        nvdw

        “Later when Volvo bought them out and used them in their 300-series Euro-spec cars the same problems recurred even though the technology and belt-metallurgy had improved immensely. It’s the belt that wears, not the cones.”

        What problems?

        In the DAF belt-driven CVT, the belt was always meant to a replacement part. The belts on my Volvo 340 lasted for 75,000 miles. That’s more than twice the life of an average tyre.

        The pushbelt in modern CVT designs does not seem to be the problem in CVT failures. Due to its principles of operation (ie higher amounts of internal friction) however, the oil gets contaminated quite quickly and needs to be replaced at certain intervals and (most importantly) with the right fluid*. I believe Nissan’s intervals are somewhere between 30k and 45k depending on use.

        (* Using ATF for the job is a guarantee for a quick CVT death.)

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    On the Pathfinder forum there has been some major complaining about reliability after the switch to a CVT in the new model.

    To me a CVT unit screams cheapness on the part of the manufacturer. Those days may be history, but I want a vehicle with a transmission that will make it to the 150,000 mile mark.

    After driving a rental Altima this summer, Nissan is correct about one thing. You do have work the gas pedal differently.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      CVTs are the cheapest way to improve meeting current CAFE mandates because CVTs have an infinite range to match the engine’s highest fuel efficiency to the driver’s needs.

      ICEs operate best at a certain constant rpm and what the CVT does is to adjust its ratio to match that rpm to vehicle speed.

      When they work, CVTs work as advertised. It’s only when they break or go stupid, as in not engage, that the problem becomes very expensive.

      I know people who drive CVTs — but I don’t know anyone who keeps their CVT beyond the factory warranty period. That would be really tempting fate while playing Russian Roulette.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Ghosn throwing Jatco under the bus for customers’ stupidity is not cool. I drove a newish Altima as a rental… it wasn’t great but the CVT was not really a point of contention.

    I am not sure CVT’s potential for fun/performance has been exploited though. Imagine a CVT with DSG fast/responsive manual mode and programmable ratios. For smaller cars this doesn’t sound too bad.

  • avatar

    CVT driving dynamics are’t for car people, most Americans aren’t car people.

    Hence the CUV….

  • avatar
    seabrjim

    The CVT in my 2012 Impreza is great, I dont miss the one in our Rogue. It operated fine also but after reading about Nissan CVT problems for years, I convinced the wife we were rolling the dice. Its smooth, gets 36 mpg on the highway, and will have the fluid changed every 30k regardless of what Subaru recommends.

  • avatar
    zamoti

    It would be great to have some more data regarding what the failures are, frequency, which models, etc. The article gives the impression that owners have an expectation that a CVT will drive like a traditional automatic, but as others have pointed out, that notion seems absurd. Having only driven a rental Altima for about 6 hours total I was immediatlely aware of how different it was (and did not like it).
    A look at Truedelta shows that Muranos suffered many transmission issues at the hands of a transfer case. Maximas had problems in 06, but that was the last year of the traditional auto. A look at Truedelta shows that Muranos suffered many transmission issues at the hands of a transfer case. Maximas had problems in 06, but that was the last year of the traditional auto. Anyone have any real data on just how they’re failing?
    For a brand that once tried to purport that their lineup had sporting pretensions, I don’t understand why they pushed the CVT so wide. If it had gone into the Versa, Sentra, Rogue and Quest, sure. For it to end up in anything with a VQ V6 seems odd especially when no manual is offered; it entirely softens the torquey punch that a VQ provides. As a Maxima owner, I would have considered another to replace the current, but a short test drive proved to me that the CVT is not suitable for those of us who enjoy abusing the throttle now and again. For the CVT to be unreliable as well as dull further ensures that it won’t be considered.

    • 0 avatar
      Dweller on the Threshold

      The CR data suggests that the Maxima’s CVT has not been a problem and the Max forum seems to agree. So perhaps Nissan engineered a soft launch for that generation CVT by the laggy throttle response of the 7th gen. Max. Yay! (?)

      When they decided that they needed to show a little more torque off the line, the V6 Altima (and a new iteration CVT) crashed (not to mention gobbling up Max sales along the way).

      So, yes, indeed, it seems that the CVT goodness is joined with a fair bit of badness. In the aggregate, fleet MPG is met. On the floor, sales probably are what they are for completely unrelated reasons. From the heights, where we think we’re entitled to some say-so in the strategy of corporate decisionmaking, it all seems very annoying.

      No worries, though, at least Nissan is well-enough capitalized that there will be someone available for years to come to deny warranty claims for the second and subsequent owners.

  • avatar
    catachanninja

    I’ve been totally happy with the cvt on my ’10 altima with a 3.5, granted I usually drive it in sport mode which uses a set of fixed gears that I can shift through. I can’t imagine ever willingly going back to an automatic

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Nissan’s rationalization doesn’t pass the smell test. Dealers wouldn’t be replacing so many CVTs under warranty if the problem is really one of customer perception.

    Nonetheless a CVT may be a better choice over the long haul than an over-engineered eight, nine or 10 speed conventional automatic, and newer CVTs are coming closer to simulating normal automatics.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      Spot on. Nissan isn’t replacing CVTs because of ‘perceptions’. Obviously, the replacement would be ‘perceived’ identically to the old unit. They are being replaced because they failed in service, usually preceded by a sound AKA the ‘whine of death’. Nissan knew it had a problem when they doubled the warranty on these failures.

      Perhaps those over-engineered conventional automatics are necessary because a CVT is simply inherently not tough enough to do the job.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        jpolicke – - –

        Mike Miller, writing for “Roundel” magazine (a BMW-related publication), has said that he would never buy a car whose transmission operated on the principle of destroying itself in order to function properly…

        That also includes most “automatics”.

        ————-

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Those 8-speed automatics may be less complex than you think. One of the interesting things about planetary gearsets is that each extra planetary gear-set can add many more ratio combinations.

      Four-speed automatics usually had two or three planetary gearsets and four or five shift elements (clutches or brakes) depending on the design. Most 6-speed automatics have three planetary gearsets and five or six shift elements depending on the design. The ZF 8-speed has four planetary gearsets and five shift elements. It’s more moving parts, sure, but it’s not in proportion to the number of ratio choices available.

      As an aside, the Chrysler front-drive 6-speed automatic is actually a 7-speed; it has two slightly different choices for fourth gear and it will pick either one depending on what the driver is doing. It’s mechanically capable of being an 8-speed, but two of the possible combinations have the same ratio, so one of them isn’t useful. And that has been in production for years. Many of Chrysler’s newer transmissions are like this.

      Gears and clutches are proven technology; more so than steel belts and pulleys are. You could flip the point around: why use a CVT when you could easily achieve the same performance and economy with gears and clutches and less uncertainty about how long it will last?

      By the way, the newer Nissan CVTs also have a planetary gear-set in them because the CVT alone is not capable of achieving a big enough spread between the lowest and highest ratio. The 6-and-more-speed planetary transmissions have plenty of spread between lowest and highest, often 7 or more. And, they have a torque converter for starting from a stop! So much for getting rid of gears and clutches and torque converters. If they are needed anyhow, why bother with the CVT part of it?

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Dealers will do whatever gets them paid and gets the customer out of the service bay. Whether the part needs to be replaced or not is irrelevant.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        nonsense. no automaker is insane enough to let dealers replace major powertrain components capriciously. You don’t think Nissan would clamp down hard once they saw a flood of TNI transmissions?

  • avatar
    ltcmgm78

    I had a 2013 Nissan Versa SL with the CVT. In daily driving it was no problem. My worst experience was driving through the West Virginia mountains on I-64 East. Every time we would climb a hill, the engine was revving like crazy. It gave the illusion of going much faster than we really were and I found myself having to keep my eyes on the speedometer and trying to ignore the engine sounds at the same time. After I got the letter from Saab telling me I could still get parts and service, I traded it for a Saab Cabriolet.

    • 0 avatar

      My impression of the exact same Versa rental was the exact opposite, while going up the Kaloko Drive (in Hawaii). First and foremost, the car imitates the automatic by clinging to ratios, instead of expected variabilty. And second, it refuses to “downshift”. Result is endless “hunting”, which I thought CVT was designed to prevent in the first place. Surprise of my life.

  • avatar
    morbo

    The automakers have to hit the new MPG requirements one way or another. Toyota bet on hybrids and won. Ford split it’s bet on hybrids and aluminum construction / weight reduction, TBD on that bet. Chrysler went with the Pentastar DI engine and 8/9 speed traditional automatics, looks like they’ll win (DI Pentastar and 8 speed anyway, jury’s TBD on the 9-speed). Nissan bet on the CVT.

    And lost.

    • 0 avatar

      Doesn’t seem they “lost” in any way. Yeah, there’s a small hit to profitability due to warranty replacements, but it’s not any worse than what’s built into WV’s very business model. In exchange, they are indisputable leader of CVT. And once again, already I know someone who refuses to buy traditional automatic anymore.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Awesome in concept, but not so much in execution. But then all you could ever really need is 10 forward gears. Now a regular 5 or 6-speed trans with a 2 speed rear end (or splitter) is all that’s needed. Manual or automatic. Big trucks have had those for decades and they work perfectly. Only big rigs need 4 granny/crawling gears.

  • avatar
    phargophil

    I’ve had a 2005 Ford Freestyle AWD with the CVT since new. It has been absolutely flawless over 67,000 miles. I changed the fluid and high pressure filter at 60,000 and fully expect it to last until I tire of the car.

    Yes, it doesn’t seem like a normal automatic, but it is fine for the performance level one would expect for such a large, heavy vehicle.

    As often as an 8- or 9- speed transmission is going to shift, I would imagine it would seem to act more like a CVT than an old 4-speed.

  • avatar
    Cubista

    Never had any issues with the CVT gearbox in my Cube…bought the extended (100,000 mile) warranty on a hunch.

  • avatar
    Truckducken

    Funny, just spent the afternoon in a Maxima with a CVT and had a discussion with my copilot regarding the transmission. We decided our personal issues with CVTs were (1) poor durability and (2) high cost to fix. The shift behavior is a red herring. Every car has some sort of shift behavior; if you happen to feel a particular flavor of ratio change ‘feel’ is intrinsically better, suit yourself. But as long as the Jatco CVTs are prone to expensive, premature mechanical failure, Nissan needs to be all over a solution.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    One of the issues I had with my rental is that the engine, at hwy speed, was in an unfortunate powerband. You *really* wanted it to kick down or up. That drone from the 4 cyl was unlovely. The CVT was doing its job but it didn’t matter, it just made a hwy trip tiring and annoying.


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