North Americans clearly love the automatic transmission. According to a recent study released by PricewaterhouseCoopers' Global Automotive Practice, nearly 83% of North American vehicles are equipped with automatic transmissions, compared with 12% of vehicles in Western Europe, 45% of vehicles in the Asia-Pacific region, and 2% of vehicles in South America. This regional disparity is one of several cited in the Global Powertrain Strategies Study, published by the Autofacts Group, a division of the Global Automotive Practice. The study illustrates for manufacturers pursuing a global strategy in the powertrain industry the unique differences between the North American auto industry and that of the rest of the world. "We've always known that vehicle production and consumption in North America is vastly different from that of the global automotive industry," notes senior consultant Peter Langlois, "but now we have quantitative evidence." For example, he says, the study's research shows that while the world's automotive growth is coming from passenger cars that use small gasoline engines, North Americans prefer larger cars and a much higher percentage of light trucks. Among other findings of the study:
- The internal combustion engine powered by traditional fuels will continue to dominate the powertrain field well into the future.
- Hybrids and fuel-cell-powered vehicles will not make major inroads before 2005.
- Stringent global emissions and fuel economy regulations are the key factors driving the future of powertrain technology, yet global harmonization of vehicle regulations is not expected in the foreseeable future.