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Transmission Developments


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23. April 2013

Last week Ford and General Motors made a big announcement. The two cross-town rivals have agreed that they’ll be collaborating on the development of an “all-new generation of advanced technology 9- and 10-speed automatic transmissions for cars, crossovers, SUVs and trucks.” These transmissions will be for both front- and rear-drive applications.

“The goal,” explained Craig Renneker, Ford’s chief engineer, Transmission & Driveline Components & Pre-Program Engineering, “is to keep hardware identical in the Ford and GM transmissions. This will maximize parts commonality and give both companies economies of scale.”

Given that the two companies are going to have a greater array of clever powertrain engineers working on the development of these transmissions, the investments that the companies will be making will be significantly less than if they were each going it alone.

2012 Hydra-Matic 6T70 (MH2) Six Speed FWD Automatic Transaxle

GM six-speed FWD transmission

The two companies have some experience in this type of collaboration in that the six-speed automatics in vehicles from the Ford Fusion to the Chevy Malibu, from the Ford Escape to the Chevy Equinox are a result of a collaboration between the two companies.

So does this mean that when the 9- and 10-speeds come to Ford and GM vehicles that they’ll be one in the same? No. That’s because, as Renneker explains, “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.”

The software settings will be the differentiator. The components will otherwise be as common as they can possibly be. And it should be noted that each of the companies will be making the transmissions in their own plants.

Last week there was another transmission-related announcement, though this one was entirely of a different nature. It was an announcement by BMW related to the BMW 328 sports car.

BMW transmission

BMW 328 transmission

BMW, working with transmission supplier ZF, is making transmissions for the 328.

Which may not sound all that astonishing—unless you know that the BMW 328 was produced between 1936 and 1940, and only 464 of them were produced.

BMW Group Classic is having ZF produce exact replicas of the original Hurth gearbox for the 328.

While GM and Ford are going to be making hundreds of thousands of their new gearboxes, ZF will be making 55 versions of the tranny for the 328.

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