9- and 10-speed automatic transmissions

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In the face of environmental concerns and rising fuel prices, carmakers are working to make their cars more fuel efficienti. We take a look at the latest in multi-speed automatic engine innovations boosting efficiency and performance.

Multi-speed automatic transmissions were first introduced into everyday cars in 1941 by Chryslerii. Since then, they have advanced from 2- or 3-speed transmissions - commonly used in 1960s and 1970s models - to new innovations to provide 9 or 10 speedsi. This is a considerable step up from the bulk of today's automatic transmission vehicles, which are typically 6-speediii.

Multi-speed autos deliver the benefits of lower fuel consumption without decreases in performance (Source: Ford, http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=37937)

The more gears a car's transmission has, the more efficiently they can match engine speed to driving conditions at a given point in timei. A main benefit is increased fuel efficiency, which is ultimately good for motorists' hip pocket and the environmenti.

In addition, cars with more gears can have shorter shift times with a smoother transition between gears, enhancing driver comfortiv. Overall driving performance is also improved with smoother starting and manoeuvringiv.

GM and Ford

Despite being traditional rivals, GM and Ford are working together on a joint collaboration aimed at producing a new line of 9- and 10-speed automatic transmissioniii. The new transmission is planned for roll-out in the 2017 Holden Commodore and will also produced for front- and rear-wheel drive cars, SUVs and trucksi. The collaboration reduces costs by capitalising on the economies of scale in shared engine componentsiii. Through the development of this transmission, along with ethanol-based fuels, it is hoped that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will be cut significantlyi.


ZF is a German engine transmission manufacturer that developed the first 6-speed automaticv. It also produced the first 9-speed automatic earlier this year, which reduces fuel consumption without affecting performancev. However, unlike the GM and Ford collaboration, the transmission can't be used in rear-wheel drive cars. According to ZF, the engine revolutions are considerably reduced in conjunction with faster accelerationv. It is expected that a number of different car models will use the ZF 9-speed automatic transmission. The 2014 Range Rover Evoque, due to be launched in Australia later this year, as well as Chrysler's classic Jeep Cherokeev are both slated to use the new ZF 9-speed automatic.

Hyundai is leading the way with an industry-first 10-speed automatic transmission, which may be used in the Genesis (pictured) and Equus sedans.


Hyundai aims to trump other car and engine manufacturers (including GM, Ford and ZF) by producing a 10-speed automatic transmission-equipped vehicle ready for the market by 2014vi. The increase in performance and fuel efficiency is claimed to be greater than ZF's prospective 9-speed auto and released earlier than GM and Ford's multi-speed collaborationvi.


Volkswagen will also be developing a 10-speed automatic gearbox. Volkswagen believes the new technology will help lower its CO2 emissions to 95g/km by 2020vii. The new gearbox forms part of Volkswagen's goal to achieve 15 per cent better efficiency than its current crop of enginesvii.

i Pettendy, M. and Bass, J., 2013, Motoring, 'Nine and 10-speed autos for GM, Ford', viewed 23 July 2013,

ii Yao, C.H., 2008, 'Automotive Transmissions: Efficiently Transferring Power from Engine to Wheels', viewed 23 July 2013, ProQuest,

iii General Motors, 2013, 'GM and Ford to Jointly Develop Advanced Automatic Transmissions', viewed 23 July 2013,

iv TransportWeekly, 2011, 'Dynamic, economical, comfortable: the new 9-speed automatic transmission by ZF', TransportWeekly, CNN Travel, viewed 23 July 2013,

v Atiyeh, C., msn Autos, 2013, 'World's first 9-speed automatic gears up for Range Rover Evoque', viewed 23 July 2013,

vi Sharma, G., 2011, Motoring, 'Hyundai developing 10-speed auto', viewed 23 July 2013,

vii Hall, S., 2013, Drive.com.au, 'VW to develop 10-speed auto', viewed 23 July 2013,