GM, Ford to Jointly Design More Fuel-Efficient Transmissions

General Motors Co. (GM) and Ford Motor Co. (F), which share a six-speed transmission, are designing nine- and 10-speed automatic versions that are more fuel-efficient for cars, trucks and sport-utility vehicles.

By working together, the U.S. automakers can develop and bring the new transmissions to market faster and at a lower cost than if they work alone, according to a joint statement today.

“The goal is to keep hardware identical in the Ford and GM transmissions,” Craig Renneker, Ford’s chief engineer for transmission, driveline component and pre-program engineering, said in the statement. The companies will use their own control software to ensure that each transmission is “carefully matched” to their individual brand-specific vehicles, he said.

GM and Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford are adding more vehicles with better fuel usage to compete against Japanese carmakers such as Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) GM earlier this month said it plans to spend $332 million at four factories to create more fuel-efficient engines and transmissions.

The nine- and 10-speeds announced today should improve fuel efficiency by about 5 percent, Mark Schirmer, a Ford spokesman, said in a telephone interview.

While the companies didn’t say when the new transmissions will go into vehicles, it took about three years from the time they announced a similar agreement for six-speed transmissions in 2003 for the first ones to go into service, Dan Flores, a spokesman for Detroit-based GM, said in the same interview.

The companies’ six-speed partnership has led to 8 million of the front-wheel transmissions being used in vehicles such as the Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu, GM and Ford said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Higgins in Detroit at thiggins21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Bill Koenig at wkoenig@bloomberg.net; Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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