By on April 15, 2013

Developing cars and pieces thereof is getting increasingly costly, and that’s why even the fiercest rivals band together to share the mounting financial burden. GM and cross-town rival Ford agreed to jointly develop a new line of nine- and ten-speed automatic transmissions, Reuters says.  

GM and Ford will build both FWD and RWD variants. The gaggle of gears is one way to cope with the U.S. government mandate that by 2025, automakers should sport a corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) of 54.5 miles per gallon (23.2 km per liter). According to Reuters, “that translates to about 39 mpg in real world driving, or nearly two thirds higher than the average fuel economy for the 2012 model year vehicles.”

The new transmissions are expected to reach the market beginning in 2016. According to the New York Times, the joint effort can save “hundreds of millions of dollars and considerable development time.” What’s more, “it also saves the cost of licensing the design and production rights from a specialist transmission supplier like ZF of Germany or Aisin of Japan, which can cost up to $100 per unit.” When bought in not insignificant quantities, of course.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

53 Comments on “GM And Ford Get In Gear Together...”


  • avatar
    Halftruth

    I would like to hear more on why more gears is the chosen route versus just using a CVT. I would think any application requiring more than 6-7 gears would just go to a CVT (excepting heavy duty usage, trucks etc).

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      Both saw HUGE failure w/ CVT’s. As for their new stuff, I’d wait ten or so years after they’re introduced before running into that particular minefield. Their past effort had noted failure issues:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM-Ford_6-speed_automatic_transmission

      “…GM has abandoned CVTs after a disastrous experience with CVT failures in Saturn Vue and Ion models. GM later agreed to a class-action lawsuit settlement over CVT failures, but payments to plaintiffs were blocked by GM’s 2008 bankruptcy.

      Ford attempted to use CVTs in its Freestyle, Five Hundred and Mercury Montego models, but the reviews were bleak (in fact the Freestyle’s transmission still sticks in our mind as the worst CVT we’ve ever driven)….”
      http://www.motorauthority.com/news/1078147_like-it-or-not-more-cvts-coming-from-automakers

      • 0 avatar
        Jacob

        It seems strange they gave up so easily. The technology hold a huge promise. Honda did seem to get the CVTs to work fine in the latest Accord, the CVT is even standard with paddle shifters on its sporty “Accord Sport” car.

        • 0 avatar
          rnc

          GM’s original CVT design was probably the best of its time, but the bean counters got hold of it, decided that (and I don’t know the names of the parts), but instead of using two as designed, they decided that one would work just fine…with typical GM beancounter results (info straight from high level director of PT developement at GM)

        • 0 avatar
          wsn

          “It seems strange they gave up so easily. The technology hold a huge promise. Honda did seem to get the CVTs to work fine in the latest Accord, the CVT is even standard with paddle shifters on its sporty “Accord Sport” car.”

          GM is no Honda.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            But the ‘Vette’s still faster than the NSX :)

          • 0 avatar
            otaku

            “Honda did seem to get the CVTs to work fine in the latest Accord…”

            I would probably hold off at least a couple of years before announcing Honda’s latest CVT experiment with the Accord a success. I wouldn’t be surprised if they run into some issues in terms of long-term, high mileage reliability or end up declaring some type of recall eventually.

            I think the fact that they didn’t try to mate their new CVT to the higher horsepower six cylinder engine probably tells part of the story.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            The good news is Honda has been selling CVTs in Japan for over a decade. The bad news is I doubt many of them have been attached to anything with close to 185 hp and 181 ft/lbs of torque that was installed in a car that weighs 3,200+ lbs.

        • 0 avatar
          Compaq Deskpro

          What exactly do you shift on a CVT? Are the shifts simulated?

          • 0 avatar
            Brian P

            Yes … it emulates fixed gear ratios … in which case, why bother with the CVT and just use a regular geared transmission?

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            You can leave it in Auto, and have CVT economy, or use the paddles for a more “sporting” experience. Or, perhaps, to let give drivers used to fixed ratios more time to recalibrate.

            Hybridization/battery assist will either way force a decoupling between engine speed and wheel speed, even in the New Accord Hybrid, but for now, it’s bit disconcerting to many, including me.

          • 0 avatar
            johnny ro

            My Suzuki Burgman 650 has a cvt. I leave it in its one speed mode all the time. Its a pretty cool setup.

            The power delivery is about like an outboard motor. It revs to 4 grand when starting off with a decent amount of throttle, and stays there until about 60mph, where the revs are programmed to climb. More throttle = more RPM within limits, at any speed.

            About 3 seconds to 40 with wide open throttle, which I do most of the time.

            Flick the bar button switch to Manual and it shifts among virtual (software) gears by up or down buttons. Boring – more fun to hold WOT up to top speed.

            Press power button and it alters notional final drive ratio for more revs. Unnecessary but the programming and button is cheap enough.

            Pretty bad MPG on the Burgman. It was not designed for fuel economy.

            CVT belts do fail on Burgmans and its almost half the cost of new bike to get fixed, if you pay the shop to do it.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Thornmark:

          No mention of the same Jatco CVT failures that were so widespread with Nissan? Selection bias? None of these early CVTs worked very well…were GM’s CVTs made by Jatco as well?

        • 0 avatar
          Marvin McConoughey

          The Japanese are the current world leaders on CVT development. The transmissions are going on high volume cars such as the Honda Accord V6, but that seems to be the present top power limit that current technology can achieve. I drove a Suzuki car with a CVT and strongly disliked it. However, CVT development in other cars has since improved. The CVT is said (sorry I can’t recall the source) to require high hydraulic power and thus suffers some limitation on fuel economy. That said, most CVT cars get excellent fuel economy. With nine and ten speed automatics, and new automated manuals coming, the competition is about to intensify. Good for all of us!

      • 0 avatar
        cdakost

        Interestingly my family seems to have bought the only Ford Freestyle that works. Coming up on 100k miles without a single issue. No rattles or squeaks or anything. Transmission still working fine.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Totally.

      Driving a CVT is a little disconcerting at first, but it really does seem like the bright tool for the job.

      I had more trouble adapting to a 4-speed automatic.

      Now that I’m comfortable driving manual, traditional, and CVT, I often think that a CVT would be a better fit. They’re dead simple, too, even if getting the materials and wear-engineering right are likely full scale engineering efforts in their own right. But, still, why kick the can down the road when you can solve the problem for once and for all?

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      A CVT has higher frictional losses than a geared transmission. The minor loss from the geared transmission not achieving precisely the optimum gear ratio all the time are offset by its lower friction. Keep in mind also, that with planetary gears, adding more gears and clutches exponentially increases the number of gear ratios available. The ZF 8-speed has 4 planetary gearsets but only 5 internal clutches.

      This is in addition to the headaches that almost every manufacturer of CVT transmissions has encountered with reliability, plus a lot of people hate the way they operate. More manufacturers have tried CVT and given up, than currently build them … which ought to indicate that there is a problem.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Do you have any numbers regarding frictional losses? And what about the losses from the constant clutching and cog swapping in an unmpteen speed tranny. And the brief moments of deloading during gear swap. Also, are the higher frictional losses in CVT inherent to any CVT strategy, or just due to it being a less mature design? As in, could one possibly achieve some form of “lockup” in a CVT design?

        I’m really curious about this.

        Practically, to achieve the kind of EPA numbers talked about here, I suspect hybridization/ regen on braking / highly efficient, narrow bandwith ICEs are the only way, and once an electric motor is in the mix, I’m guessing non CVTs become even more complicated to pull off.

        But what do I know?

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          I’d assume much of the frictional losses in a CVT stems from the clamping forces of the variable pulleys acting on the belt.

          At the moment, the EPA and reported mileage of the various CVTs on the market seem to have the multi-speeds covered. I haven’t driven the latest from Honda yet, but it would have to be pretty awful to not provide a better driving experience than the 8-speed automatic I’m most familiar with.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I think Ford should be a good guy and just go ahead and give the MT-82 transmission to GM…

    He,he,he…

  • avatar
    skor

    9 and 10 speed transmissions for passenger cars? I though we hit a point of diminished returns with 6 speed boxes.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Apparently not, judging by the eight-speed transmissions that have become standard equipment on many European cars. But several experts are saying that nine gears are about as ideal as it gets…

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The chief engineer for ZF actually said nine speeds should be the upper limit, because of the weight penalty of adding more gears. If that’s right, building ten speeds for smaller cars won’t help with fuel economy.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        He may be right, but that’s what the “experts” used to say about 10 speeds on racing bicycles as well. And now we’re up to 20-30. And the new ones are still lighter than the old 10 speeds…..

        There are some efficiency to be eked out of ICEs by trading usable power band width for peak efficiency. The power trains in diesel big rigs have been doing that for a long time. And have the 18 or so gears to show for it. Not saying passenger cars exactly mirror bigrigs, but as technology makes gearsets lighter and cheaper, while safety “requirements” and burger/donut diets make the rest of cars bigger and heavier, while ever bigger brains and cheaper actuators make quick, seamless shifts easier and cheaper to achieve, the “optimum” number of gears may well creep up as well.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    GM and Ford collaborated on their current generation of 6 speed autoboxes, and they’ve turned out to be reasonably reliable. So we should expect similar results.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      There’s a logical fallacy in there somewhere…

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        I agree with danio and while its anecdotal, I haven’t heard about any real failures with the A6 used in the Mustang on my usual Mustang hangout not to mention a guy in my AO knocking right on the 8 second club with a stock transmission and converter – guy literally drives his car to the track up and down the east coast, bolts on some slicks and bangs off low nine second passes then slaps the street tires back on and drives home. No additional coolers, no trans modifications, nothing.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    nine forward speeds, plus two in reverse….

    Now seriously. I’ve also driven and owned CVT veichles, and yes, they are disconcerting at first. But once one gets used to them, one actually misses the seamless transitions.

    As other poster mentioned, it is a far greater shift -pun intended- from a manual to an auto.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I’m pretty used to our 2005 Nissan Murano’s CVT, and I never found it as disconcerting as many other people have. I did, however, hate the CVT in our (thankfully-departed) 2007 Dodge Caliber SXT…

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Will the Murano go as fast in reverse as it will in drive? That was the best feature of the CVT-pioneering DAFs, and they had reverse races in their native Netherlands as a result.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      …But once one gets used to them, one actually misses the seamless transitions…

      Uh, no. At least not for me. I will attest to the efficiency, and even power delivery but the feeling is so unnatural.

  • avatar

    So with all those gears, the average car driver is edging closer and closer to becoming a trucker. Heh.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I can only imagine the amount of Ford vs Chevy die hards that’ll be angry over this, frankly I’m sorta glad to see these two working together on something.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    I personally feel that, especially given either a CVT or 7+ speed transmission, that shift logic really needs to be up to par. The super-multi speed auto’s and CVT’s I have driven to date have left me completely unimpressed.

    That being said, I will drive a manual until the last one rusts away and goes to the crusher. Driving through our nice spring ice and snow storm, (about 6″ worth) this weekend only serves to reinforce the better control a clutch imparts (in my opinion.)

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    +1 on the shift logic….
    My understanding is that nowdays transmission shift patterns are optimized for fuel economy…..essentially, keep the RPMs as low as possible.
    Some sport autos also have a sports mode which allow engine RPM to climb further.

    What they don’t do in those instances, -and I could be wrong- is once the engine hits those higher RPMs, is that the transmission logic could skip some intermediate gear ratios.

    Or, one can always go in manumatic mode.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      My 1989 Ford Probe had just that, a rocker switch next to the gear selector lever for “economy” or “sport” mode. Selecting “sport” raised the rpm shift point. That car also has a type of manumatic mode.

      As transmissions go, it’s back to the future.

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    For some reason I absolutley despise feeling the shift in an automatic. For me, if its not manual then CVT is the way to do. Its just so smooth.

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    @ schmitt trigger and Pinzgauer,

    Its pretty interesting isn’t it? I grew up and drove my dad’s 92 LeSabre with the 3800 and 4 speed auto..The only “shift logic” was that it had shift points based on how much throttle you were giving it and how fast you were going. The driver actually could modulate and “pick” gears, so to speak. Though I don’t like automatics, this is the way to do it. Driver still has some control using just their foot. My mom’s current ride is a 2007 A4 with the 3.2 V6 and 6 speed Tiptronic. Its actually great because it doesn’t have that varying shift logic, so even though the paddles are there, its not so bad to drive in auto mode. It has sport mode, which changes the shift points, but not the shift logic. I think this is a very important distinction.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    This is all academic given that most of these units will spend 90% of their lives in top gear.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I can understand putting more gears into a bigger vehicle, I always loved 4 speeds in trucks, but 6 speeds on the 3/4 tons are very nice. Not much for more then 6 speeds for anything under a 1 ton personally though.

    Cars however, I’ve never found a transmission with more then 5 speeds to be worth it tbh, and this (pictured) transmission is for a FWD, so it must be for a car, maybe they’ll prove wrong but we’ll see.

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    Thank you for article. Now I know why electric cars have 90% fewer moving parts.

  • avatar
    ern35

    This discussion brings back memory of my ’63 Buick LeSabre with the ‘variable pitch Dynaflow’—never ever feeling a ‘shift’—-and wonder if the 400 Cu inch engine-power had anything to do with that!

  • avatar
    MrFixit1599

    The CVT that Ford uses in the Escape Hybrid used a planetary gearset instead of belts from what I understand. We have 3 of them as work vehicles, and between the 3 of them they have over 750k on them with no issues and no service as they are unserviceable. Not sure why they don’t just use that similar setup for all CVT’s in the future.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The Ford Escape Hybrid like other Ford and Toyota Hybrids use a planetary based E-cvt. The E is for electric and is what makes the vehicle function as a Hybrid. W/o the battery and computer to control it and the expense they add it wouldn’t function. It contains two motor generators. One is connected directly to the output while the other drives the planetary to achieve the varying ratios and to allow the engine to both provide propulsion and shut off with the vehicle in motion.

      I guess you could change things around a bit and provide a generator attached to the engine to drive the range motor to adapt it to a non Hybrid model. However the losses of generating transmitting and converting that power back into motion would likely exceed the benefit.

      As far as their serviceability they are filled with lubricant and have cooling systems too. On the Fords they call out for the transmission coolant to be changed at 100K and then every 50K there after. Changing the lubricant in the trans every 100K isn’t a bad idea even though it isn’t indicated until 150K. It is standard “Ford” ATF though and not overly expensive like the fluid required for many of the mechanical CVTs.

  • avatar
    SixDucks

    I should have bought that DAF Daffodil……….


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India