LOS ANGELES -- Mitsubishi will offer its first continuously variable transmission in the United States when the redesigned 2008 Lancer goes on sale in March.
Sources say the transmission will be teamed with a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine Mitsubishi developed in a venture with DaimlerChrysler AG and Hyundai Motor Co.
Cash-strapped Mitsubishi is looking for ways to improve fuel economy. Continuously variable transmissions can improve it up to 20 percent over four-speed automatic transmissions.
Continuously variable transmissions do not use traditional gears. Instead they use a belt and pulleys to transmit power to the wheels.
Tetsuro Aikawa, managing director for product development at Mitsubishi Motors Corp., says the company also is working on diesel engines and on engines that burn E85, which is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. He says hybrid technology, which uses a gasoline engine and one or more electric motors to power the wheels, is too expensive.
"We're targeting around 2010 for diesel engines for the U.S.," Aikawa says.
The 2007 Outlander crossover, which goes on sale in the United States this fall, will come equipped only with a six-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.
A four-cylinder engine from the venture with DaimlerChrysler and Hyundai originally was planned for the vehicle. But company officials say they could not afford the four-cylinder engines for the Outlander from the venture.
The company also has delayed purchasing from the venture a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine for the Lancer.
Mitsubishi has said it will be 2009 before it can take full advantage of its venture with DaimlerChrysler and Hyundai.