Chrysler has more improvements in store for the upcoming model year based on its biggest U.S. investment plan since the company's bankruptcy: transmissions with more gears to enhance fuel economy and performance. Chrysler was the first domestic automaker to introduce an 8-speed transmission in its models, starting with the 2012 Chrysler 300S and Limited models.
To make things more interesting, Automotive News recently reported that Chrysler will introduce the industry's first 9-speed transmission in the first half of 2013. According to the report, Chrysler Corp. CEO Sergio Marchionne believes high fuel-efficiency and performance standards can be met using these transmissions with more gears instead of using hybrid engines. Developing these higher-gear transmissions costs less than developing hybrid engines, and so far it has already increased Chrysler’s sales.
The push for better fuel economy is not only an aspiration, it’s a requirement. President Barack Obama proposed improved CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards of 54.5 mpg by 2025. Most automakers think hybrids and electric motors are the answer, but Chrysler believes its high-gear transmissions will get the job done.
After initially working with ZF, Chrysler is beginning production of the 8-speed transmissions in Kokomo, Indiana later this year. They’ve said their investment budget for the Kokomo plant is $300 million, and they’re planning to put the 8-speed into several more models like Ram 1500 pickups, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Dart, and possibly Dodge Challenger.
Mircea Gradu, vice president of transmission powertrain and driveline engineering, said of the 8-speed transmission: "Anything that will be rear-wheel-drive based, we will consider this," he said of the eight-speeds. The 9-speeds transmissions are geared for front-wheel-drive models, he said, including Chrysler and Dodge minivans.
Other companies like Ford and GM are expected to develop their own high-gear transmissions, but they’re not projected until 2014.