General Motors and Ford have confirmed they will jointly develop a new generation of fuel-efficient automatic gearboxes. What they aren’t saying is that the new transmissions will use as many as nine and even 10 different gears in an effort to minimize fuel-consumption, about twice the number of gear ratios used in most of today’s automatics.
While it’s common to have a 21-speed bicycle and most big 18-wheel trucks use nearly as many speeds, the transmissions Ford and GM will develop are a significant step beyond what was normally considered necessary in the automotive environment. And that underscores the pressure manufacturers are feeling as they face the 37.5 mpg Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard going into effect in 2016 and the 54.5 CAFE rules to follow in 2025.
But is there a point of diminishing returns?
“Ford and GM have a very successful history in designing and jointly producing automatic transmissions,” a Ford spokesman told TheDetroitBureau.com, adding that, “We can confirm…that we have signed an MOU (a Memo of Understanding) to jointly collaborate in the development of a variety of all-new, fuel-efficient transmissions.”