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Eight-speed auto to ‘transform’ Chrysler

Box on: ZF's eight-speed automatic transmission will be built under licence by Chrysler.

ZF eight-speed automatic to feature across Chrysler Group vehicles

14 Jun 2010

THE Chrysler Group has announced that it will invest $US300 million ($A350.4m) to build a new ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic gearbox in the US from 2013.

It has also confirmed that it will begin importing the gearbox for use in specific vehicles across the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram brands before production starts at its transmission plant in Kokomo, Indiana.

The largest investment since the company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy under Fiat control in June 2009, the funds will help retain around 1200 jobs and improve fuel economy across its model lines.

Chrysler Group senior vice-president and head of manufacturing Scott Garberding said the company had licensed the manufacturing rights from the German ZF Group to build the new eight-speed gearbox, which is claimed to be more sophisticated and efficient than traditional five- and six-speed automatics.

No specific economy figures have been issued, although Chrysler is working to corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) improvements of at least 25 per cent within the next four years.

The gearbox is designed for rear-wheel drive applications and is in service at other car brands, including BMW. Its modular design also makes it suitable for hybrid and AWD drivetrains.

 center imageFrom top: Chrysler 300C, Dodge Ram and Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The main contenders at Chrysler are the 300C, Dodge Charger, Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Ram pick-up truck.

“The new eight-speed transmission that we’ll be producing in Kokomo will transform our future product line, but equally important, ensures the future viability of our Kokomo facilities and our dedicated workforce,” said Mr Garberding.

The investment was aided by “tax abatement” approval from the city of Kokomo.

According to Chrysler, the investment will fund the installation of equipment and special tooling to modernise Indiana Transmission Plant I and the Kokomo Casting Plant.

Chrysler’s senior vice-president of powertrain, Paolo Ferrero, said: “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 per cent by 2014.”

Chrysler said it had invested almost $US1.3 billion ($A1.17b) since 2007 in powertrains, including its Pentastar V6, its 62TE transmission and US production of Fiat’s 1.4-litre 16-valve FIRE engine (Fully Integrated Robotised Engine) at Chrysler’s Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance (GEMA) plant in Dundee, Michigan, which will also undergo a substantial upgrade.

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