The End Must Be Near, Ford, GM partner Again


Is the world coming to an end? Ford Motor Co. and General Motors are working together, again! Those are two names I never thought I would hear in the same sentence, without a lot of cursing!

However they are working TOGETHER for a second time! They must be desperate in deciding to work together, but Wonders will never cease, they are developing nine- and 10-speed transmissions jointly for use in cars, crossovers, pickups and SUVs.

The rivals say partnering on the automatic front- and rear-wheel-drive gearboxes will get them to market faster and cheaper than each automaker could do on its own.

The agreement builds on an 11-year partnership that has resulted in more than 8 million fwd six-speed transmissions under the hoods of many of the companies’ best-selling nameplates.

The companies wouldn’t say when production of the new transmissions will start or specify the models in which they will be used. Research firm LMC Automotive expects the carmakers to start producing both gearboxes sometime in 2016.

The companies will continue to make their own transmissions while using many common components.

GM and Ford said they have begun initial design work. The transmissions will “raise the standard of technology, performance and quality” while improving fuel economy, Jim Lanzon, GM’s vice president of global transmission engineering, said in a statement.

Sources say GM is leading development of a fwd nine-speed and Ford is spearheading work on a rwd 10-speed. Automotive News reported the broad outline of the plan in September, and the companies confirmed the plan and revealed some of the details this week.

Both companies likely would use the rwd 10-speed in some pickups, SUVs and performance cars, perhaps including the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. GM could also use it on rwd Cadillac nameplates, which now include the CTS and ATS.

The nine-speed could get broad use across much of the companies’ fwd lineups, especially in larger cars and crossovers.

A supplier source says annual volume for each transmission likely will exceed 1 million units by 2018, based on Ford and GM’s production forecasts. Most automakers are working on transmissions with an increasing number of gear ranges to boost fuel economy and lower emissions. More gears also should allow for a smoother ride and better performance.

“Giving that improved drivability and comfort to the consumer is a big factor, along with better fuel economy and reduced emissions,” says Eric Fedewa, director of global powertrain and components forecasting at IHS Automotive.

Ford and GM trail some competitors in offering higher-gear transmissions.

Chrysler Group, through a supply agreement with ZF Friedrichshafen of Germany, offers an eight-speed automatic on its Ram pickup, Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV. The new Cherokee that will be produced starting late next month will have a fwd nine-speed gearbox that Chrysler has said eventually will be used across its line of fwd vehicles.

Many luxury automakers, including Audi, BMW and Lexus, offer eight-speed transmissions. This fall Cadillac plans to offer GM’s first eight-speed, a gearbox sourced from Japan’s Aisin Seiki Co., in the CTS and XTS sedans.

LMC forecasts that by 2018 more than one-third of vehicles built in North America will have eight-, nine- or 10-speed transmissions.

Mike Omotoso, LMC’s senior manager of powertrain forecasting, says gearboxes with more than 10 speeds are unlikely because of complexity and packaging limitations.

Ford and GM said that their original transmission collaboration, which began in 2002, was a template for the current effort.

Craig Renneker, Ford’s chief engineer of transmission and driveline component engineering, said “the goal is to keep hardware identical in the Ford and GM transmissions,” while each company uses its own software to integrate them into their vehicles.