Marchionne commits to 9-speed, says technology keeps evolving

Chrysler says the ’15 200 will arrive in the second quarter.
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DETROIT -- Chrysler was forced to delay the launch of its 2014 Jeep Cherokee by two months last fall as engineers struggled with a software flaw in the SUV's nine-speed automatic. But CEO Sergio Marchionne says he remains committed to using the new transmission throughout the company's lineup of front-wheel-drive-based models.

Chrysler licenses the nine-speed technology from ZF Friedrichshafen and builds the transmissions in Kokomo, Ind. It launched the automatic last fall in the Cherokee and will use it next in the 2015 Chrysler 200 and Jeep Renegade.

The company says it is continuing to refine the transmission's operating software in the Chrysler 200 but expects the redesigned 200s to be in showrooms as promised in the second quarter.

Unlike the Cherokee, the 200 regularly uses its highest, most fuel-efficient ninth gear during normal operations.

"The nine-speed is the shortest, most complex transmission you can buy in the marketplace," Marchionne told reporters in March. "It has a number of wonderful attributes; one of the things that is not a wonderful attribute is the fact that it's new. All things that are new go through an evolution stage that makes them better over time."

Chrysler plans to reveal a new five-year business and product plan in early May, but Marchionne said the company will continue to spread the nine-speed across its lineup of fwd-based cars, crossovers, minivans and SUVs as they are redesigned or reengineered.

"The commitment continues to bring about improvements in the nine-speed and to recognize we keep on getting better at this," Marchionne said. "Some technical changes were already made, and we'll continue to make more. It is still the most viable solution moving forward."

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.


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