It was a revolution in carmaking: 15 years ago, Volkswagen introduced the first mass produced direct-shift gearbox (DSG) in the world. There had been automatic transmissions before – primarily the torque converter automatic. But the DSG ushered in the first large-scale series production automatic that was more efficient than a manual. “Through the end of the last century, automatic transmissions were always regarded as sluggish gas-guzzlers. The goal was to build a sporty and fuel-efficient variant,” explains Hubert Gröhlich, Director of Direct-Shift Gearbox Development at the time. And they succeeded: The DSG began its continuing triumphal march – particularly in the compact and small car classes. After all, the efficiency of the DSG transmission was significantly better than that of the torque converter automatic. The concept quickly bore fruit: While gear shifting was still almost exclusively a manual affair at the turn of the year 2003/2004, from then onwards the DSG gained more traction with each passing year. It shifts faster than any driver, has a sporty edge and saves fuel. And that is why over 26 million buyers of a model from the Volkswagen Group have since opted for the exceedingly comfortable mode of driving with the direct-shift gearbox.
The era before the DSG – and the era afterward
Statistically, the watershed moment can be pinpointed exactly – the time before the introduction of the DSG and the time afterward. Europe and the US, in particular, were two completely different transmission worlds in the “before” period. While on the old continent, in Western Europe, only 14% of automobiles (generally top-end models) had an automatic transmission, in America the figure was already 88%. And it wasn’t just a question of price: Manual transmissions were often more fuel-efficient and sportier than the old torque converter automatic. In 2003, more than 90% of all Golf units rolled off the line with manual transmissions.