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by Tim Beissmann

Chrysler Group in the US is set to spend $US300 million ($362 million) to build the ZF Group’s versatile, fuel-efficient eight-speed automatic gearbox from 2013.

In its largest investment since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, Chrysler plans to retool both the Kokomo Casting Plant and Transmission Plant 1 in Indiana. Chrysler says the move will save up to 1200 jobs.

In the meantime, ZF will deliver transmissions to Chrysler from Germany until US production is in full swing, although Chrysler is yet to confirm when this is likely to begin.

Also still under wraps is exactly what vehicles will benefit from the eight-speed ’boxes.

The ZF 8HP debuted in BMW’s 5 Series GT and 7 Series and has since found its way into other premium products including the Audi A8, Bentley Mulsanne, BMW 5 Series and X5 and the Rolls-Royce Ghost.

Chrysler says the new transmission will lead to fuel economy improvements across its entire product range. Logical recipients in Chrysler’s current range include the Chrysler 300C, Dodge Charger, Jeep Grand Cherokee and its Ram trucks.

Chrysler has a mission of a corporate fuel economy improvement of at least 25 percent by 2014.

The ZF 8HP, at just 90kg, is the same size as the six-speed automatic (found in Ford’s FG Falcon, among others) but is also lighter and around six percent more fuel efficient.

It can handle torque from both petrol and diesel engines up to 700Nm, shifts in just 200 milliseconds and can shift non-sequentially, even from 8th to 2nd in extreme cases.

Its versatility will also appeal to Chrysler, with its ability to work with both all-wheel drive and hybrid layouts.

(with Reuters)




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