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by Tim Beissmann

Fierce automotive rivals Ford and General Motors will reportedly announce a partnership next month that will see the two Detroit-based manufacturing giants collaborate on next-generation nine- and 10-speed automatic transmissions.

The New York Times reports Ford Motor Company and GM will form an alliance to develop a number of high-ratio transmissions for their future passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles.

Insiders suggest the nine-speed transmissions would be equipped to front-wheel drive vehicles, while the 10-speed units would find their way into rear- and all-wheel drive models.

The deal is intended to dramatically reduce development and manufacturing costs of the gearboxes, which will be integral to both Ford and GM’s efforts to reduce the fuel consumption and emissions of their vehicles to comply with more stringent standards to be introduced in the US and Europe over the coming years.

Industry analysts predict the joint investment from both companies would likely reach US$1 billion ($975 million), with more than 500,000 transmissions to be produced every year.

Although there’s no friendliness between Ford and GM on the showroom floor, the two adversaries have put their differences aside in the past for a similar mutually beneficial cause.

Ten years ago, they announced an agreement to co-develop and produce a six-speed gearbox for front-wheel drive models. The transmission – dubbed 6F by Ford and 6T70 by GM – reached production in 2006, and has since been applied to more than eight million vehicles across approximately 30 different nameplates.

Developing transmissions in-house allows manufacturers to more precisely tailor the components to suit their needs and also eliminates high royalty costs for licenses and intellectual property rights charged by gearbox specialists like Germany’s ZF (nine-speed pictured above) and Japan’s Aisin.

The new nine- and 10-speed Ford/GM transmissions are expected to reach the market from 2015.