It seems Mercedes-Benz isn't the only automaker looking to venture past the eight-speed threshold in automatic transmissions. In fact, Chrysler is also reportedly working on developing its own nine-speed gearbox, albeit for front-wheel-drive vehicles.
During a speech made at last week's dealer conference, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne touched upon Chrysler's forthcoming transmission renaissance. In addition to the ZF-licensed eight-speed automatic, destined for use in its rear-wheel-drive platforms, the executive also revealed the company plans on rolling out a new nine-speed automatic for its front-wheel-drive platforms.
"You and the market have told us that we have uncompetitive powertrains, especially at the transmission end," Marchionne said. "These are leading-edge solutions to the mileage and emissions objectives we have set for ourselves. I can assure you there will be no other mass manufacturers in the NAFTA region, other than some snotty premium manufacturer out of Europe that will be able to match the offering."
Marchionne noted both transmissions will be compatible with both all-wheel-drive and hybrid-electric systems, but Chrysler hasn't revealed any additional information on the nine-speed automatic. Apart from the number of gears, it will be markedly different from Mercedes-Benz's gearbox, which is being designed for longitudinal/ rear-wheel-drive platforms.
It's unknown what Chrysler plans on stuffing the new gearbox into at this point, but seeing as a vast majority of the company's offerings are (or will be) built atop of front-wheel-drive platforms, the possibilities are almost infinite. We wouldn't be surprised to see the nine-speed appearing in larger FWD offerings -- the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, for instance -- in a move to further improve fuel consumption.
No timeframe was given, other than Marchionne's note that the nine-speed would launch "shortly after" the eight-speed, which is scheduled to enter production in the middle of 2011.