Transmission-engineering management is gaining strategic clout within OEMs as new transmissions increasingly become a key technology for meeting new vehicle CO2 and fuel-efficiency regulations. So when veteran Jim Lanzon retired recently as General Motors’ Executive Director of Transmission Engineering, all eyes were on GM’s new CEO Mary Barra and her team as they sorted through candidates and selected Lanzon’s replacement.
They gave SAE member Larry Nitz the nod, but with a strategic twist. Nitz, formerly Executive Director, Hybrid and Electric Powertrain Engineering, becomes Executive Director, Global Transmissions and Electrification. His new role reflects the evolution of automotive transmission systems, as their mechanical and electrical functionality converges.
News of the newly-combined role at GM Powertrain and Nitz's promotion to lead it reached Automotive Engineering during the 2014 Geneva Motor Show on a wave of positive buzz from engineers at GM and suppliers.
“This [Nitz’s selection] indicates GM is serious about Vehicle Electrification and its essential role in meeting the 54.5-mpg law,” a driveline supplier source who asked to remain anonymous told Automotive Engineering.
Nitz takes over GM’s transmission development at a critical juncture. An approximately $900 million joint investment by GM and Ford is riding on successful development and deployment of the next-generation ten-speed planetary automatic for rear-drive applications that will be shared by both automakers, and it is expected to be integrated with stop-start functionality. First prototype tests of the new unit, known internally as 10R, have been successful, sources directly involved with the program tell Automotive Engineering.
The new ten-speed, an important technology for both OEMs to meet 2025 CAFE, is expected to enter production in late 2017.
Nitz is well-known in the global industry for his visible role in Chevrolet Volt development. He has been involved with every major GM electrification technology since the EV-1 including the Two-Mode Hybrid powertrain, Saturn Vue battery-alternator-starter, e-Assist, Spark EV, and Cadillac ELR.
He joined GM in 1976 and has spent most of his career in powertrain engineering in a variety of positions. Nitz was Chief Engineer for manual and automatic transmissions at the Saturn Division, then became Chief Engineer for Controls and Advanced Engineering at Allison Transmission.
Nitz holds 41 U.S. patents and four GM Boss Kettering Awards for Engineering Innovation. He earned Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science degrees in electrical engineering from Kettering University and Stanford University, respectively.
Commenting on Nitz’s expanded responsibility, Steve Kiefer, GM Vice President of Global Powertrain Engineering, said “Larry Nitz heading up the Global Transmissions and Electrification teams will play a key part in addressing future CO2 reduction opportunities. Larry’s wealth of experience will help integrate and deliver synergies between these propulsion technologies.”