GM and Ford to Cooperate on Joint Development of 9- and 10-Speed Auto Transmissions

It seems that the 8-speed auto gearboxes that are becoming the norm in premium models and are even trickling down to more affordable cars are still not enough.

The New York Times reports that General Motors and Ford are expected to announce an agreement to jointly develop new automatic transmissions specially designed to reduce fuel consumption as early as in November.

According to sources from both carmakers, Ford and GM are already working on 8-, 9- and 10-speed automatic gearboxes for use in their passenger cars and light trucks.

If the two Detroit rivals go ahead with this plan, their sheer size and supply base could give them “huge manufacturing and volume advantages over all the competition” said ND-Automotive analyst Skip Nydam.

This is not the first time America’s two biggest automakers work together on transmission development. A decade ago, hey shared the design and production of a new 6-speed auto for front-wheel drive cars. This program resulted in the Ford 6F and GM 6T70 transmissions, which shared mechanical parts but each had its own electronic controls.

“The biggest benefit in GM and Ford working together is it reduces their investment risk”, IHS Automotive powertrain analyst David Petrovski told the newspaper. Most automakers do not build their own auto gearboxes but buy them from specialists like ZF and pay license fees, thus increasing the total production cost of each vehicle.

Transmissions with a high number of gears allow the engine to operate in its most fuel-efficient rev range, thus reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Hyundai has already announced that it will offer a 10-speed auto in its luxury models from 2014 and ZF launched its own 9-speed auto gearbox last year.

The transmission specialist says that the 9HP gearbox, which uses a traditional torque converter instead of a dual-clutch arrangement, reduces consumption up to 16 percent compared to a six-speed auto.

By Andrew Tsaousis

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