The list of U.S. manufacturing investments that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has agreed to make through 2023 foretells the demise of what can best be described as a tried-and-true industry veteran: the four-speed Ultradrive automatic transmission.
The four-speed Ultradrive, which has been updated several times over its very long career, started its life as a workhorse for Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth beginning in the 1989 model year, when it powered offerings as diverse as the Plymouth Voyager, Dodge Daytona IROC and Chrysler LeBaron.
As corporate owners came and went and Chrysler's fortunes waxed and waned, the Ultradrive drove on, powering much of the automaker's lineup through the go-go 1990s and the company's tumultuous go/no-go 2000s. But as fuel economy rose to the fore for consumers, the four-speed gearbox faded out of fashion in favor of more complicated transmissions with bigger gear spreads. FCA switched most of its vehicles from six-speed to eight- and nine-speed automatics — but not all of them.
According to FCA's tentative agreement with the UAW, the Kokomo Transmission Plant will "build out" the final four-speed Ultradrives — still in use on certain trims of the Dodge Journey — sometime in 2020, ending a 32-year production run.