Ford Motor Co. will replace 70 percent of its transmissions by volume by the end of 2008, an effort to improve vehicle performance and boost the automaker's corporate average fuel economy.
The new transmission families include
Ford's effort to revamp its automatic transmission families began last year when it introduced its five-speed TorqShift for trucks with low-end torque demands. That transmission is available on the 2003 F-250, F-350 and Excursion.
Ford says it will introduce its rwd six-speed automatic beginning in 2005. Multiple variants are scheduled for the automaker's cars and trucks, although the specific models were not announced.
The fwd six-speed automatic from the GM-Ford joint venture is expected to be available mid- to late-decade for cars and sport wagons with mid- to large-displacement engines.
Ford's first CVT will debut this year on the Focus C-Max in Europe, while a higher-torque version will be available in North America on the 2005 Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle and Mercury Montego.
ZF has said it expects CVT production at a Ford-ZF joint-venture plant in Batavia, Ohio, to reach 700,000 units annually by 2007. A portion of that volume could be sold to other automakers, ZF executives have said.
A fwd six-speed automatic developed by Japanese supplier Aisin Seiki Co. Ltd. also will be available on the 2005 Five Hundred, Freestyle and Montego.
Eventually, the CVTs and the GM-Ford six-speed automatic will replace most of Ford's current fwd transmissions in North America, says Eric Fedewa, powertrain analyst with CSM Worldwide in Farmington Hills, Mich.
Hundreds of components are being developed for the new transmissions.
"We are developing several new (transmission) architectures, all at one time, so the magnitude of engineering effort is staggering," says Craig Renneker, Ford's executive engineer for automatic transmissions. "We're retooling a lot of new plants with a lot of products."
The changes will help Ford meet fuel economy goals and address consumers' growing demand for better shift quality. Competitors already have responded by providing smoother, more efficient transmissions, including CVTs. For example, the Nissan Murano is equipped with a CVT.
On the fuel economy side, the GM-Ford six-speed automatic is expected to deliver a 4 percent to 8 percent gain compared with four-speed automatics. The CVT should produce efficiency improvements of 8 percent to 10 percent, the company says.
"It's a solid strategy, and I think they're going in the right direction," Fedewa says. "It all comes down to implementation."
Ford's transmission makeover has not been without bumps in the road.
The CVT project with ZF has suffered delays. At one point, the first Batavia CVT was expected to be on the market in 2001. Now, it will first appear late this year.