October 11, 2002

GM and Ford to jointly develop fuel-efficient 6-speed automatic transmission

Detroit, Michigan – In a first-of-its-kind business arrangement between two automakers in North America, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation announced a joint program to develop a high-volume, front-wheel-drive 6-speed automatic transmission with improved fuel economy over today’s transmissions.

Both companies have been working independently on their own 6-speed transmission programs.

The new transmission would offer an estimated 4 percent to 8 percent improvement in fuel economy over traditional 4-speed automatic transmissions available in today’s front-wheel-drive cars.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding signed last week, Ford and GM agreed to:

  • Share a common design, engineering and testing of the new transmission;

  • Jointly work with suppliers to develop and purchase components;
  • Assemble their own transmissions at their respective manufacturing plants.

The new 6-speed would be available beginning in mid-to-late decade on front-wheel-drive cars and sport-utility vehicles with mid-to-large displacement engines.

“This is an historic announcement and one that will have many important benefits for both companies,” said Gary Cowger, president of GM North America. “Bringing together the immense capabilities of two powertrain organizations is a dynamic that will resonate throughout the industry.”

“This agreement has huge potential for both companies, and it will pay off for our customers and our shareholders,” said Jim Padilla, Ford group vice president, North America. “New transmissions require such high development costs that higher volumes will enable us to realize economies of scale and achieve our shared goals faster and at a better cost.”

Only the base transmission design will be common. Each company will have powertrains that are distinct in feel and performance, since the transmissions will be mated to different engines, and the respective vehicle programs will have unique performance dynamics and calibration. Each company is responsible for integrating the transmission into its own vehicles.

The transmissions will share significant common technology and components. The design being pursued is a new architecture that will have optimal steps between gears and a wider gear ratio span to improve fuel economy. Featuring a compact design, the new 6-speed will be capable of higher torque capacity when compared to most existing front-wheel-drive transmissions such as 4-speed automatics and continuously variable transmissions (CVTs).

“This could be the start of a new era in the world of automatic transmissions,” said Tom Stephens, group vice president, GM Powertrain. “First, this new 6-speed transmission will have a simple but elegant design that improves overall transmission operation at a cost competitive with today’s automatics. Second, it showcases the benefits of collaboration with other companies on major components, which are extremely costly to bring to market.”

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