Ford and GM to collaborate on nine- and ten-speed transmissions: Strange bedfellows?

Ford and GM to jointly develop new transmissions

Ford and GM to jointly develop new transmissions

In what might seem an incongruous collaboration to some, Ford and General Motors have announced an “agreement under which both companies will jointly develop an all-new generation of advanced-technology nine- and 10-speed automatic transmissions for cars, crossovers, SUVs and trucks.”

The agreement does not include joint manufacture nor will the transmissions be exactly the same. Instead, the companies will work to develop transmissions that meet the needs of its own product line. As Craig Renneker, Ford’s chief engineer for transmission and driveline component and pre-program engineering, said:

“The goal is to keep hardware identical in the Ford and GM transmissions. This will maximize parts commonality and give both companies economy of scale. However, 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.”

By cooperating, the companies will be able “to design, develop, engineer, test, validate and deliver these new transmissions for their vehicles faster and at lower cost.” Shades of Sesame Street…

It’s actually already begun. GM vice president of global transmission engineering Jim Lanzon said, “Engineering teams from GM and Ford have already started initial design work on these new transmissions,”

Many people don’t realize how much parts and design work is shared. This is the third time in the past ten years that GM and Ford have worked together on transmissions, and as Ford notes, more than 8 million six-speed front-wheel-drive transmissions based on those efforts have gone into, on the Ford side, the Ford Fusion, the Ford Edge and Ford Escape and Explorer, while GM has put the transmissions in Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Traverse, Chevrolet Equinox and Chevrolet Cruze, and others .

Then what about Chrysler? It has worked with the German transmission maker ZF to develop the multispeed automatics used in Chrysler Group products, and is making them in a factory in Indiana. ZF is well known for making transmsissions for everything from supercars to microcars.

Collaborations are actually quite common, and most are usually well hidden. One of the more famous examles of working together, however, was in the development of the PRV V-6, where Peugeot, Renault and Volvo developed an engine for vehicles in drirect competition with each other.

So a transmission is no big deal, just the seemingly unlikely partners. Though as one Ford analyst told us many years ago, “If you’re not doing something with someone else, you’re not doing anything at all.”