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Ford, GM to collaborate further on transmissions

Box of tricks: GM and Ford have not officially confirmed their collaboration on new automatic transmissions (GM’s Bedford Powertrain plant in the US state of Indiana pictured).

Detroit rivals Ford and GM to co-develop nine- and 10-speed automatics: report

General News logo1 Oct 2012

FORD and General Motors are reportedly set to announce the joint development of nine-speed automatic transmissions for front-wheel-drive vehicles and 10-speed automatic transmissions for rear-drive vehicles.

It will signify the expansion of an existing alliance between the two Detroit giants, which teamed up a decade ago to produce a set of six-speed transmissions for front-drive vehicles that were introduced in 2006 with common internals but independently developed control electronics.

The New York Times reports that the rival firms are also likely to enter a joint production program for the new transmissions, bringing economies of scale.

A GM spokesman confirmed to Automotive News that discussions between the two companies are underway, a memorandum of understanding has been signed and that they hope to make an announcement soon, although a Ford spokesman declined to confirm the deal.

Production transmissions are not expected to hit the market before 2015, leaving Ford and GM to continue playing catch-up with European and Japanese carmakers that have offered seven- and eight-speed units for some time.

South Korean giant Hyundai last year announced it is working on a 10-speed transmission in-house, with a view to including it on top-end Genesis and Equus models – which currently run Hyundai-designed eight-speed units – by 2014.

Back in Detroit, Fiat-controlled Chrysler Group has already introduced an eight-speed transmission in the Chrysler 300 large sedan and Ram truck, while a nine-speed unit is confirmed for the Dodge Dart small sedan from next year.

Unlike the in-house efforts of Ford and GM, Chrysler’s units are licensed from German specialist ZF.

Reducing fuel consumption is behind the race to pack in more gear ratios as it enables engines to spend more time operating in their efficiency sweet spot while providing a taller cruising gear that has the engine trickling along at low revs.

Refinement can also benefit if engines are not required to hit high revs between gearchanges.

Automotive News reports that GM is leading the design of the nine-speed unit and Ford has responsibility for the 10-speeder.

Last year, both companies independently announced – within weeks one another – that they were developing eight-speed transmissions, but Ford has reportedly dropped the project.

However GM’s eight-speed transmission is still expected to arrive in 2014, debuting in Cadillacs and later used on SUVs and light trucks.

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