Long having lagged behind the foreign competition in transmission gear count, it was a big deal when General Motors and Ford announced their first partnership to develop a six-speed automatic transmission together in the mid-2000s.
Alas, technology rarely stays still, and General Motors and Ford have once again partnered up to develop automatic transmissions with one another, this time nine- and 10-speed automatics for both front- and rear-wheel-drive applications, possibly even pickup trucks.
“Engineering teams from GM and Ford have already started initial design work on these new transmissions,” said Jim Lanzon, GM vice president of global transmission engineering, in a statement. “We expect these new transmissions to raise the standard of technology, performance, and quality for our customers while helping drive fuel economy improvements into both companies’ future product portfolios.”
The first transmissions the companies co-developed can be seen in the Chevrolet Cruze and Traverse, and Ford Edge and Fusion, among other vehicles. In creating transmissions together, the two companies are able to save on parts costs, but each has their own computer programming for their respective applications. They will also be paired to each company’s respective engines without sharing any components there.
In creating compact transmissions with more gears, it allows a car’s engine to operate at a lower speed, delivering better fuel economy. Also, with shifting, there is a drop off in engine revs from gear to gear, but more gears creates smaller “gaps” between the ratios. That makes them smoother.
“With the jointly developed six-speed automatics we have in production today, we’ve already proven that Ford and GM transmission engineers work extremely well together,” said Joe Bakaj, Ford vice president of Powertrain engineering, in a statement. “Our 6F family of transmissions has exceeded expectations and there is every reason to believe we will have the same success with these all new transmissions.”
Recently, Ford introduced a new six-speed dual-clutch transmission for the Fiesta and Focus, which doesn’t have the hydraulic friction (and power inefficiencies) associated with a conventional automatic transmission. The downside to it has been what American consumers have thought to be jerkier shifting.
The new transmissions will be ready in a matter of a few short years for what we expect will be updated and all-new versions of some of GM and Ford’s most popular vehicles. Rear-wheel-drive applications may include anything from the next-generation Chevrolet Camaro and Mustang to a full-size pickup. GM’s latest rear-wheel-drive car, the 2014 Cadillac CTS, will be using an eight-speed automatic from Aisin until a transmission made in-house can be brought to market.
Sources: General Motors, Ford
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By Jacob Brown