Chrysler, ZF & Eight-Speeds
Nowadays, eight-speed automatic transmissions are found the realm of products that tend to be purchased by the well-heeled, the luxury marques. And when the Chrysler Group strategy was announced wherein the Chrysler brand would be positioned as a more premium one within the U.S. market, there was more than a bit of sotto voce chuckling (“Sure. . . .”).
Seems like they really are serious about that because driveline and chassis supplier ZF and Chrysler have announced an agreement wherein Chrysler is becoming a customer for the ZF 8HP eight-speed. What’s more, Chrysler is being licensed to produce the transmission at its Kokomo Transmission Plant and the Kokomo Casting Plant starting in 2013. Chrysler is investing $300-million in the plants for the new transmission. (That’s on top of $43-million it recently announced for new equipment and tooling to expand its operations in Kokomo to support production of the World Engine and improve processes for the 62TE transmission program.)
According to Paolo Ferrero, Senior Vice President—Powertrain, Chrysler Group, “The new eight-speed automatic transmission will offer our customers refinement and comfort while achieving greater fuel economy and performance, We look forward to integrating the new transmission into future Chrysler Group products and welcome its contribution to a corporate fuel economy improvement of more than 25% by 2014.”
Initially the transmissions will be produced in the ZF Getriebe GmbH plant in Saarbrücken, Germany. ZF is also building a transmission plant in North America to produce products including the eight-speed that will be in production by 2013. ZF will be supplying Chrysler out of the new plant—and presumably other customers, as well, because who is going to want to be left out of the gear race?