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Chrysler Pulling Ahead Introduction Of 8-Speed Transmissions

Maker will invest nearly $100 million in project.

by on Dec.15, 2010

The next-generation Chrysler 300 sedan will be one of the first models to get the maker's new 8-speed gearbox which is being rushed into production.

Chrysler Group LLC has disclosed it plans to pull ahead the production of 8-speed transmissions that will replace aging gearbox designs and help the maker meet strict new fuel economy standards.

The automaker has confirmed that it is looking to invest another $85 million in its Kokomo Transmission Plant (KTP) for a variety of powertrain improvements.

Chrysler Group notified city officials of the potential new investment at the Dec. 13, 2010, Kokomo City Council meeting. At the same meeting, Chrysler Group also requested the transfer of the previously approved tax abatement certificate on the announced $300 million investment from Indiana Transmission Plant to KTP to facilitate the production of the next generation eight-speed transmission.

“We’re moving eight-speed production to KTP because we’re pulling production ahead and the timing worked better at KTP,” said Brian Harlow, Vice President and Head of Powertrain Manufacturing, Chrysler Group LLC. “This move opens up space at ITPI to prepare the plant for production of the front-wheel drive transmission, which we announced in November,” he said.

The expansion is slated for early completion, suggesting the 8-speed transmission could be ready for distribution in the second half of 2012.

It is unclear exactly how widely the maker will apply the new technology.  The new gearboxes will clearly cost more than the four, five and six-speed transmissions used elsewhere.  But the new 8-speed also could save money, in the long-run, by delivering a significant – and immediate – boost in mileage.  Like its competitors, Chrysler is struggling to ensure it can meet the government’s 35 mpg Corporate Average Fuel Economy target set for 2016.

At the same meeting meeting, the Kokomo City Council also approved Chrysler Group’s tax abatement application on the $843 million investment for production of the front-wheel drive transmission.

“We are grateful to Mayor Goodnight and the Kokomo City Council for their continued support of Chrysler Group,” said Harlow. “These investments demonstrate our commitment to this community and our workforce. We look forward to continuing a partnership that will secure Kokomo’s position as the center of our powertrain strategy.”