General Motors and the Ford Motor Company team up again, but there are other partnerships between automotive rivals to consider.
In 2013, Detroit’s top rivals signed an agreement to jointly develop new nine- and 10-speed automatic transmissions with front- and rear-wheel drive variants. The collaborative effort means both companies are able to design, engineer, establish, test, corroborate and distribute new transmissions at a faster rate and for a lower cost than they would have been able to do on their own.
Improved Performance, Better Efficiency
The effort has yielded a new 10-speed automatic transmission, one that will find its way into various models over the next few years. That the two competing pony cars will share the same transmission means one less important edge for both manufacturers. Instead, the two companies will have to find other ways to beat each other, with such factors as horsepower, steering, handling and aerodynamics providing key differences.
At the same time, buyers of both models will enjoy two important benefits 10-speed transmissions provide: better off-the-line acceleration with a shorter first gear and improved fuel economy with the taller top gears. Incidentally, the 10-speed will be the first we’ve seen in a production vehicle.
Ford-GM Collaboration: Not the First Time
This isn’t the first time Ford and GM have collaborated on transmissions. You know those six-speed automatics you find in the Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion, GMC Acadia, Lincoln MKZ and other models? Well, they’re the result of a joint effort culminated in 2004, which brought forth new transmissions for each automaker’s front-wheel drive cars.
As odd as it may seem for the two sometimes bitter rivals to work together, there are huge benefits realized through collaboration. In addition to the previously mentioned faster build time and cost savings, a better overall product is a likely result.
Dodging Antitrust Concerns
GM and Ford are not the only manufacturers collaborating. The practice is now more widespread than it was decades ago, as guidelines developed in 2000 by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice supply a blueprint for manufacturers to forge relationships without incurring an antitrust suit by the DOJ.
In this instance, Ford and GM can collaborate on a project because they’ll remain competitors long after the venture has ceased. On the other hand, if the two automakers did what many enthusiasts might consider “unthinkable” and proposed a merger, they’d be judicially scrutinized due to competitive concerns.
There are a handful of other collaborative efforts in the automotive industry currently underway, including:
Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz: Infiniti QX30. The Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler have teamed up to jointly manufacture cars in Mexico. The companies have built a plant in Aguascalientes and are producing a new series of cars for Infiniti, followed by new models for Mercedes-Benz.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Mazda: Fiat 124 Spider. Fiat once again has a roadster and Mazda is the supplier. Take one Mazda MX-5 Miata and imbue it with Italian design creativity and you have the Fiat 124 Spider.
Key Collaborative Efforts of the Past
Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance (GEMA): DaimlerChrysler, Hyundai, and Mitsubishi joined forces early in the millennium to build new four-cylinder engines through its GEMA project. The initial engine block and cylinder head design were provided by Hyundai with the other manufacturers and suppliers adding their talent. The result is a family of small engines that displace 1.8, 2.0 and 2.4 liters. Chrysler later bought out its competitor’s shares, but all three continued to produce “their” engines.
Volkswagen and Chrysler: In the late 1970s, Volkswagen began supplying engines for the compact Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon twins and like models, delivering more than 1 million units before the partnership ended in 1983. Decades later, Chrysler returned the favor by supplying a minivan rebadged as the Volkswagen Routan.
May the Best Pony Car Win
Sharing a transmission with a chief rival may not sit well with enthusiasts, but it’s a very practical approach for manufacturers. Since Ford and GM will continue to produce their own transmissions, each company will also manage their own transmission shift schedules. You can bet that future fan battles will focus on which manufacturer has the best schedule and ultimately, the performance edge.