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9-speed timeline revealed (updated)

by David Zatz on

The timeline for the upcoming ZF nine-speed automatics to be used in a variety of front wheel drive cars and minivans may have been partly revealed by a release from Snavely Machine & Manufacturing, reported by the Kokomo Tribune (sent by “KCP Worker”). The article reports that Snavely is spending $1.4 million on new equipment to make parts for ZF eight and nine speed transmissions built by Chrysler. While only around a dozen new jobs will be created, it’s substantial for a company with 96 employees.

The plan is to build around 130,000 of these components during calendar year 2013, with output pushed up to 800,000 in 2015. The Peru City Council has approved a seven-year property tax abatement on the new equipment, with tax heavily discounted the first year and rising each year for seven years. (The number of components built might only indicate the speed of ramp-up since we do not know how many are used in each transmission, but we suspect there is a 1:1 ratio, because Chrysler already said it expected to make 800,000 ZF transmissions per year, 150,000 eight-speeds and 650,000 nine-speeds.)

This indicates that the first vehicles with Chrysler-built eight-speeds will appear during calendar year 2013. It appears that the nine speed will not be used in any Chrysler vehicles until 2014 at the earliest.

The new automatic transmissions are superior in performance not only because of the number and range of gears (a stunning 9.84 with the nine-speed), but because of their extremely fast shifting speed and the efficiency of the torque converter. The transmissions are stop-start, hybrid, and all wheel drive capable. ZF said the nine-speeds would raise gas mileage by 16% over ZF’s own six-speed automatics, while the eight-speeds would raise gas mileage by 12% over their six-speeds. In practice, when the Dodge Charger V6 was switched from the Mercedes five-speed to the ZF eight-speed, gas mileage rose from 19/27 to 21/31 mpg, with an increase in 0-60 acceleration from 7.2 down to 6.6 seconds.

Update: Chrysler will be start by using nine-speeds supplied by ZF during calendar year 2012, made in South Carolina. The  figures above appear to be for Chrysler’s in-house (Kokomo) production under license. At this time, no other buyers of the nine-speed have been announced, and given the volumes required by Chrysler, it is possible that this unit will be exclusive to Chrysler until Kokomo has started making them.

David Zatz founded Allpar in 1998 (based on a site he had begun in 1993-94), after years of writing reviews for retail trades. He has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. Before making Allpar a full-time career, he was a consultant in organizational psychology. You can reach him by using our contact form (much preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304


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