Two of the American “Big Three” automakers have put their differences aside, albeit temporarily, and signed an agreement to create new nine- and 10-speed automatic transmissions together.
When one reads a headline like that, it conjures up the immortal words of Chief Joseph, “I will fight no more forever.” As earth-shattering as it sounds, a GM and Ford transmission treaty isn’t revolutionary; the two auto giants co-engineered a six-speed transmission in the early 2000s.
What is a bit shocking about the announcement: a 10-speed automatic. Recently German transmission manufacturer ZF announced it saw the nine-speed as the logical and physical limit to the automatic transmission wars.
Regardless, Ford and GM are going for it. If the last co-designed transmission project is any indication of a time frame, the new transmissions are likely over three years away.
According to a Detroit News report, the nine-speed units would be designated for front-wheel drive cars while the ten speed gearbox would be used in rear-wheel drives. Automakers are adding speeds to transmissions in a bid to coax both better fuel efficiency and more performance from smaller engines.
As it stands, both brands are a bit behind the times. Ford is using mostly six-speed autos and GM has just recently stepped up to an eight-speed in its latest and greatest model, the CTS V-Sport. Across town, however, Chrysler just made big waves when it unveiled the world’s first production nine-speed automatic in the 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
We’re keenly interested to see if the minds at Ford and GM can out-engineer the Germans at ZF. Only time will tell.
Aside from logistics, however, the transmission team-up makes sense. Customers don’t care where the transmissions come from so long as they work. And sharing the project will save time and money.