DETROIT — The idea was to get two new transmissions for the price of one. In today's world, cost savings trump even the fiercest rivalry, especially with stricter government-imposed fuel economy standards looming.
Ford Motor Co. agreed to develop a 10-speed gearbox for rear-wheel-drive vehicles such as the F-150 and Mustang and let General Motors use it, too. And GM, in turn, would share with Ford a nine-speed designed to make its front-wheel-drive crossovers and cars smoother and more efficient.
But Ford didn't get quite the result it anticipated from the arrangement, signed five years ago this month. It has elected not to use GM's nine-speed transmission out of the box, opting instead for a series of new eight-speed transmissions on vehicles such as the Ford Edge, Ford Transit Connect and Lincoln Nautilus.
The first of those is based off the nine-speed, dropping one of the gears. The second eight-speed, for higher-performance vehicles such as the upcoming Edge ST and V-6 version of the Nautilus, adapts a six-speed that was co-developed with GM as part of a 2002 tie-up. A third eight-speed is expected for smaller, lower-torque vehicles.
GM's nine-speed didn't provide enough of a fuel economy improvement to justify the added cost and weight of an extra gear, Ford said.
"Typically, if anyone gave me a transmission that didn't require much work, outside of tuning it for a specific vehicle, I would take it and run," Dave Sullivan, analyst with AutoPacific Inc., told Automotive News. "It's a lot of design work after the fact to come up with their own flavor. It shows there might be some different schools of thought in terms of transmission efficiency."
GM, meanwhile, has said the nine-speed adds refinement, giving its vehicles a more premium feel. It has launched the nine-speed and 10-speed transmissions on a number of vehicles.
The shift underscores the different strategies the nation's two largest automakers are taking with their powertrain development, even amid their collaboration.