GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Chrysler Group's promise to offer better powertrains with the help of parent Fiat and an important supplier is taking shape.
ZF Friedrichshafen AG, which provides fuel-efficient transmissions for Audi and BMW among others, is supplying Chrysler with advanced eight-speed rear-wheel-drive transmissions for the 2012 Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans, replacing the previous Daimler-supplied five-speed automatics. Next year Chrysler will begin building licensed versions of the ZF eight-speeds in Kokomo, Ind., for other rwd vehicles. Chrysler has yet to identify the vehicles, but they likely will include the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango SUVs. And in 2013 ZF will begin sending Chrysler a nine-speed front-wheel-drive transmission for small and mid-sized vehicles, replacing four-speed and six-speed transmissions.
Meanwhile, Chrysler last week revealed details of more efficient and powerful versions of its current 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter engines. The revised engines, dubbed Tigershark, will debut on the new Dodge Dart compact in the first half of next year.
The new nine-speed transmission, which eventually will appear on the Dart and other vehicles based on a Fiat compact platform, will offer a fuel efficiency improvement of 10 to 16 percent over six-speed automatics, ZF said.
"A transmission in the past was still a core competence of some OEMs -- not of every, but of some," said Ludger Reckmann, ZF's North American CEO, at a press event here. When "they don't want to invest with their own r&d activities in those technologies, they go to the specialist."
The 2012 Dart will debut with a dual-clutch six-speed transmission sourced from Fiat but will be available in 2013 with the ZF nine-speed.
Chrysler had a 2011 corporate fleetwide CAFE rating for domestic cars of 29.7 mpg, vs. GM's 31.6 mpg and Ford's 32.3 mpg, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Tigershark engines will get Fiat's MultiAir technology, which provides up to a 7.5 percent improvement in fuel efficiency and a 10 percent reduction in emissions, Chrysler said.
MultiAir uses small hydraulic pumps, along with a computer, to control the timing of each air intake valve of a car's engine.