GM, Ford Developing Six-Speed Automatic
By JOHN PORRETTO
AP Auto Writer
DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. said they will invest $720 million in three plants to build a new six-speed automatic transmission being developed under a first-of-its-kind partnership between the two rivals.
"Six-speeds are the future," Dave Szczupak, Ford's vice president for powertrain operations, said Monday. "They help to optimize power, smooth operation and fuel economy."
The front-wheel-drive transmission is expected to offer an estimated 4 percent improved fuel economy over traditional four-speed transmissions in front-wheel-drive cars.
Under a memorandum of understanding signed in October 2002, Ford and GM agreed to cooperate on designing, engineering and testing the new transmission as well as working with suppliers to develop and buy components.
The new gearbox will be used in cars and sport utility vehicles. Production is scheduled to begin at both companies in 2006.
Six-speed automatic transmissions are installed in less than 1 percent of vehicles sold today in North America, Szczupak said. Because of their potential for smoother driving and fuel efficiency, such engines will likely be found in roughly 15 percent of passenger vehicles by 2010 and about half of all vehicles by 2015, he said.
GM is investing $350 million and Ford is investing $370 million to build the transmission. It will be manufactured separately at GM's Warren transmission plant and Ford's transmission plants in Sharonville, Ohio, and Sterling Heights.
Taking on such a project alone would cost as much as $1 billion, said Tom Stephens, GM's group vice president for powertrains. By working together, Ford and GM will reduce the development time by several months and save millions of dollars, he said.
"The investment underscores GM's commitment to keep Michigan's auto industry and communities world class and strong," Stephens said.
The world's two largest automakers said more than 1,100 jobs will be retained because of the partnership, including 250 in Ohio and the remainder in Michigan.
United Auto Workers vice president Dick Shoemaker said the project proves that manufacturers don't have to go to the South, China or elsewhere for such projects.
"The announcement of this new product is certainly a cause for celebration, but not cause for us to rest on our success," he said.
Ford and GM previously had sold each others' parts and had other minimal business relationships over the years, but this effort marks the first time the two have joined on such a broad program.
Jaguar will recall 67,798 cars worldwide because of a problem with a controller in the brand's ZF-manufactured six-speed gearbox. The recall affects the S-Type from 2003 and the XK as well as the 2004 XJ full-size sedan. Nearly 33,500 vehicles in North America are affected, Reuters reports, by the flaw in the electronic module controlling the six-speed gearbox. The problem could cause the gearbox to move into reverse gear; no injuries or accidents have been linked to the issue.