GM, Ford to collaborate on transmissions

General Motors and Ford are putting aside their long-standing rivalry to work together to develop a new generation of fuel-efficient automatic transmissions.

The companies said Monday that their engineers will jointly design nine- and 10-speed transmissions that will go into many of their new cars and trucks.

When transmissions have more gears, engines don’t have to work as hard. That saves fuel. As long as the shifting is smooth, most customers don’t give much thought to their transmissions.

The fierce rivals, which rank first and second in U.S. auto sales, say they’ll save millions of dollars that can be spent on areas that set them apart from other automakers such as quieter rides and nicer interiors.

Currently, Ford and GM are behind in the transmission speed race. Several other automakers such as Chrysler and Land Rover have nine-speed transmissions coming out soon. Many automakers already have eight-speed transmissions on the road. Both GM and Ford said the joint research would help them develop the transmissions faster.

Neither would estimate exactly how much they’ll save, but each said transmissions cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop. The more gears a transmission has, the more complex and costly it is to develop and build.

“While we still can be really competitive, we can collaborate where it makes sense,” General Motors Co. spokesman Dan Flores said. “We will still fight every day in the marketplace over every sale.”