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.