Automakers have long built cars together . . . as long as a huge ocean separated the partner car companies. The Big 3 here in the U.S. have not been keen on working together considering their decades-long rivalry.
But on Monday, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors (GM) inked an agreement that links both companies to develop new nine- and 10-speed transmissions for cars, SUVs and trucks. The collaboration will save each company millions of dollars, and will benefit the environment and consumers because of the resulting increased fuel economy.
With manufacturers slowly drifting away from the lower-speed transmissions of only a decade ago, the Wall Street Journal noted GM and Ford are falling behind their global rivals. Other automakers have already developed nine-speed transmissions and are working on even more advanced systems. With the cost of gasoline and diesel up sharply higher than 10 years ago, development of higher-speed transmissions is important: the more gears a transmission has, the less the engine has to reduce or increase its speed (as in RPMs) and the less gasoline the car will use. The Detroit News stated the next-generation nine-speed transmissions will go into front-wheel drive automobiles; 10-speed systems will find their way into larger rear-wheel drive vehicles such as SUVs and trucks.
The hardware in both automakers’ transmissions will be identical in both Ford and GM models. Such a move will boost the number of identical parts both companies’ transmissions and stamp out inefficiencies in the companies’ supply chain and operations. The difference between the two systems, however, is each company will use their own control software matched to the companies’ current “vehicle DNA.” In the long run, both companies hope future cooperation will advance the technology of transmission systems, bring them to market faster, and continue to save money and resources.
This is the third time Ford and GM have worked together on developing transmissions. The result has been over 8 million of the aforementioned six-speed front-wheel drive transmissions. And now we can count on the automakers to join apparel companies such as Nike who realize the old days of keeping all technologies “proprietary” are over. Collaboration, partnerships and the sharing of technology and talent achieve two noble goals: to keep companies both sustainable and profitable. Detroit is on its way up, but considering the how competitive the global car manufacturing industry has become, working together is crucial for all companies’ long term survival.
Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is the editor of GreenGoPost.com and frequently writes about business sustainability strategy. Leon also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. At Better4Business in Anaheim on May 2, he will join a panel discussing how companies can present their CSR initiatives to the media. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).
[Image credit: Leon Kaye]