General Motors will offer a new eight-speed automatic transmission in the next generation of full-sized pickups and SUVs it plans to launch in early 2013.
GM is expected to begin producing its homegrown transmission at its Toledo powertrain plant by the end of 2012 for use in trucks, three people familiar with the plans said.
Two sources said the same gearbox eventually will be offered on rear-wheel-drive Cadillacs, such as the ATS compact sedan GM is unveiling this week at the Detroit auto show.
A GM spokesman said he couldn’t comment on future product plans.
Last May, GM CEO Dan Akerson appeared at the Toledo plant to announce a $204 million investment for the production of a new eight-speed, but he wouldn’t say which vehicles would get the transmission.
Eight- and nine-speed transmissions are among the tactics automakers are using to meet more stringent fuel economy standards.
By using more gears to make more efficient use of fuel, an eight-speed can boost efficiency by 3 to 6 percent, depending on the vehicle, says Mike Omotoso, senior manager of global powertrain forecasts at LMC Automotive in suburban Detroit.
V-8 engine versions of GM’s current full-sized pickups, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, get 15 mpg in city driving and 21 mpg on the highway with six-speed trannies.
GM has been tight-lipped about its next-generation pickups, but analysts expect GM to wring every last mile per gallon from the redesign to meet federal standards and battle Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group on fuel economy.
Chrysler has hinted that it will spread its eight-speed transmission from ZF Friedrichshafen AG to all of its rwd vehicles, which would include the Ram pickup and other trucks. It introduced the gearbox on the 2012 flagship Chrysler 300 sedan and Dodge Charger.
Ford has said it is developing its own eight-speed transmission, although it hasn’t said which vehicles would get it.
Spokespeople for Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. declined to comment on whether there are plans to add an eight-speed to their full-sized pickups, the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan.
Omotoso said he would expect Ford to offer an eight-speed gearbox in time for its next-generation F-series pickup, which is expected for the 2015 or 2016 model year. He said: “If all of your competitors are offering an eight-speed, and you’re at five or six, the perception is that you’re behind.”