Ford, GM Working Together To Develop Fuel Saving Transmission
April 15, 2013

Ford, GM Working Together To Develop Fuel Saving Transmission

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

The two largest US automakers are shifting gears and announced this week a rare collaboration to develop an advanced automatic transmission. While General Motors (GM) and Ford Motor Company are traditionally bitter rivals, this partnership allows both companies to remain competitive with foreign competitors while also ensuring that new cars produced by each company will meet looming federal mandates for efficiency.

The new transmission should provide greater fuel efficiency, which in turn could ease the burden of higher fuel prices at the pump.

Manufacturers have looked to develop more efficient automatic transmissions, as lower RPMs on the road leads to less fuel consumption. One way to tackle this has been to create transmissions with more forward speed.

Ford and GM will reportedly look to develop nine-speed and 10-speed automatic transmissions for their respective portfolios of cars, crossovers, sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and even pickup trucks. These new transmissions will be built for both front-wheel and rear-wheel drive vehicles. In addition to providing increased fuel economy the improved transmission technology is expected to enhance vehicle performance.

“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.”

Exact details on the economy improvement haven´t been released, nor has either company commented on the investment it is making in developing the new transmission. However, experts noted that this is a considerable move for the two Motor City rivals.

“The fact that Ford and GM are even considering working together on a set of new transmissions intended to improve fuel-economy for both cars and pickups shows that auto makers are willing to consider just about anything to continue to improve fuel-efficiency across their lineup,” Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, told The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

Why Ford and GM decided to team up now is also not clear, but this comes after Detroit´s other top automaker, Chrysler, announced plans for a nine-speed transmission. Chrysler has announced that its Jeep Cherokee, which will replace the small Jeep Liberty, will be the first model to get the new transmission.

Detroit´s “big three” are not alone in looking to transmissions with greater speeds.

Daimler AG´s Mercedes-Benz and Tata Motors Ltd´s Land Rover are also reportedly working to introduce vehicles with nine-speed transmissions in upcoming models.

Ford and GM expressed that the basic structures of their respective transmissions will be shared with one another, but each company will utilize its own software to ensure that transmissions fit within the vehicles of their brands.

“The goal is to keep hardware identical in the Ford and GM transmissions. This will maximize parts commonality and give both companies economy of scale,” said Craig Renneker, Ford´s chief engineer for transmission, driveline component and pre-program engineering. “However, we will each use our own control software to ensure that each transmission is carefully matched to the individual brand-specific vehicle DNA for each company.”

This marks the third time Ford and GM have worked together in the past decade to collaborate on transmission design and refinement. Previously the two companies worked to produce high-quality six-speed transmissions for front-wheel-drive vehicles, and together the companies delivered more than eight million of these transmissions to drivers around the world.