Ford Motor Company will not use the nine-speed gearbox developed by General Motors, citing insufficient fuel economy improvements.
GM developed the transmission as part of a technology exchange with Ford, according to Automotive News. Ford agreed to develop a 10-speed gearbox for rear-wheel-drive vehicles including the Ford F-150 and Ford Mustang and let GM use it as well. In return, GM would share with Ford a nine-speed gearbox designed to make front-wheel-drive vehicles drive smoother and more efficiently.
However, Ford won’t use the nine-speed gearbox. The manufacturer will instead use a series of eight-speed transmissions on vehicles including the Ford Edge, Ford Transit Connect and Lincoln Nautilus.
AutoPacific Inc. analyst Dave Sullivan told Automotive News Ford’s move is surprising given the amount of work put into a new gearbox.
“Typically, if anyone gave me a transmission that didn’t require much work, outside of tuning it for a specific vehicle, I would take it and run,” Sullivan said. “It’s a lot of design work after the fact to come up with their own flavor. It shows there might be some different schools of thought in terms of transmission efficiency.”
GM maintains the nine-speed gearbox “adds refinement,” to their vehicles, using both nine- and ten-speed transmissions on a number of vehicles.
GM started using the nine-speed gearbox in 2016, but saw little to no fuel economy gains. The 2017 Chevrolet Malibu, for example, attained only 1 mile-per-gallon more in highway driving than the previous generation’s eight-speed transmission. The 2019 Buick Envision actually achieves 1 mpg less on the highway according to EPA estimates.
“I don’t know if it necessarily delivers for all applications,” Sullivan said.
GM spokesman Tom Read issued a statement saying the company stands by the nine-speed transmission: the new transmission has a wider gear ration than the old eight-speed, providing highway cruising and off-the-line acceleration benefits.
“We’ve engineered our nine-speeds for even more refined shifts,” Read said. “Smaller steps between gears in a nine vs. an eight-speed enable smoother shifts for customers.”
Ford spokesman Mike Levine told Automotive News the nine-speed gearbox simply wasn’t worth it.
“The small efficiency benefit did not justify the added weight and cost of an extra clutch and gear,” Levine said.
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