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Together, GM and Ford Gear Up for Fuel Efficiency and Performance

Together, GM and Ford Gear Up for Fuel Efficiency and Performance

By Jeff Youngs, April 15, 2013
General Motors and Ford Motor Co. signed a new pact today to collaborate on developing 9- and 10-speed transmissions for cars, crossovers (CUVs), utility vehicles (SUVs), and trucks to improve performance and achieve better fuel economy. Engineering teams from both companies are already working on these advanced-technology automatic transmissions, according to statements from both companies.

The Detroit automakers are working together on these new gearboxes to get them to market faster. Collaborating will also help reduce costs associated with design, engineering, and testing. The new transmissions will be used in both front-wheel drive (FWD) and rear-wheel-drive (RWD) vehicles.

It's been suggested in news reports that these new transmissions will be an alternative to the simpler, and some say cheaper, continuously variable transmission (CVT) that is optional in a number of models, particularly from Japanese brands including Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota, plus Fiat-Chrysler Group's Jeep brand. GM is working on 9-speed transmissions to mate with engines in its FWD vehicles, while Ford is leading development of 10-speed gearboxes for RWD pickups, utility vehicles, and perhaps performance cars, if a business case can be made. If these transmissions prove successful, it's likely that 11- and 12-speed gearboxes may be next, according to an auto blog post by Jonathan Welsh in The Wall Street Journal.

This isn't the first partnership that GM and Ford have signed. Both companies report that they have signed three pacts to work together on transmissions including a decade-long work agreement to make 6-speed transmissions, which has helped both companies deliver more than 8 million 6-speed front-wheel-drive transmissions to customers around the world.

Ford installs these jointly-developed 6-speed transmissions in its Ford Fusion sedan; the Ford Edge midsize CUV; the Ford Escape compact CUV; and Ford Explorer midsize CUV. GM equips a variety of its high-volume models including the Chevrolet Malibu midsize sedan; Chevrolet Traverse and Chevrolet Equinox compact CUVs; and Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan with these co-developed 6-speed transmissions.

Although Ford and GM will share common parts as part of the collaboration on the new transmissions, each automaker will develop its own control software to ensure that the transmissions fit the individual specs of the respective vehicle makes for each company.

Meanwhile, most automakers are figuring out new ways to boost fuel economy to meet U.S. government standards that will require individual automaker lineups to average 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg), which translates to about 39 mpg in real-world driving. That's nearly two-thirds higher than the current average fuel economy (23.8 mpg) for 2012 model-year vehicles, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listings.

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