Volvo, Mack producing automated transmissions in Hagerstown, Md.

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Volvo Trucks and Mack Trucks on Thursday, Aug. 16, both announced the start of production for their automated transmissions at their powertrain facility in Hagerstown, Md. Volvo celebrated the start of I-Shift production, while Mack began production of its mDrive.

The $8 million Hagerstown investment includes creation of a new assembly line, installation of new equipment and tooling and employee training. The investment also created 50 new jobs at the facility.

“Expanding our manufacturing activities in the U.S. is important to Mack,” said Kevin Flaherty, president of Mack Trucks North American sales and marketing. “Bringing mDrive assembly to the Hagerstown facility while also meeting the growing demand we’ve seen since the transmission’s introduction in 2010 exemplifies our commitment to investing in what our customers need.”

Mack said more than a third of the highway trucks currently rolling off the assembly line at its truck plant in Macungie, Pa., feature the automated manual transmission, which is available on Mack Pinnacle model highway tractors. The mDrive is designed and engineered for improved fuel efficiency with Mack MP series engines as part of the company’s Pedigree Powertrain offering – engine, transmission and axles are all Mack proprietary components.

“The mDrive transmission allows Mack to further capitalize on its 112-year legacy as an integrated manufacturer, delivering improved fuel efficiency, better drivability and enhanced driver satisfaction,” Flaherty said. “Smooth automated shifting continues to win driver favor as a growing number of customers, including liquid bulk and fuel haulers, transition their fleets to mDrive. The mDrive automated manual transmission is simple to use and contributes to safety and driver retention.”

Volvo said sales of its I-Shift automated transmission have grown substantially since 2007. Volvo said the percentage of its trucks sold with its proprietary transmission – which features a grade sensor, Hill Start Assist, skip shifting and Eco-Roll – hit a record level of more than 40 percent in 2011 and has continued to grow throughout 2012. Available with Volvo engines on VN model highway tractors, nearly one of every two Volvo trucks now being built in North America features an I-Shift transmission, according to the company.

“This is an important addition to our North American production capabilities and highlights I-Shift’s tremendous growth since its introduction more than five years ago to the North American market,” said Ron Huibers, president of Volvo Trucks North American sales and marketing. “I-Shift has been a game-changer, providing Volvo customers clear fuel efficiency and productivity improvements. We’re glad to see the industry now adopting this type of technology.”

Volvo Trucks’ I-Shift transmission is central to its XE – exceptional fuel efficiency – powertrain package designed to reduce fuel consumption by lowering engine rpm at a given vehicle speed. Volvo Trucks announced in April that the XE package – now featuring the 13-liter Volvo D13 engine – also would be offered with the 16-liter Volvo D16 engine.

The new Hagerstown line increases the Volvo Group’s global transmission footprint and serves as the primary source for North America. Volvo’s I-Shift transmissions previously were assembled in Köping, Sweden, and then sent to Hagerstown for adaptation to North American market requirements.