When BMW released the redesigned 7-series back in 2001, they were the first to offer a six-speed automatic transmission. Two years later, Mercedes upped the ante by throwing an additional cog into the mix, equipping their new S-class with a seven-speed auto. Now that Lexus is offering an eight-speed slush box in their waftastic LS460, BMW has vowed not be left behind in the ratio wars and plans to bring an nine- eight-speed transmission to market by the end of the decade.

The next 7-series will be due for a substantial redesign by 2009 or 2010, so that's when industry analysts expect the eight-speed box to find its way into BMW's luxury sedan. The engineering haus, ZF Friedrichsafen, has been tapped to create the new automatic and has plenty of experience increasing fuel economy, while decreasing build costs, on the current model's six-speed automatic.

When will this cog-swapping numbers race end? We're not entirely sure, but as soon as manufacturers start cresting the double digits, we doubt anyone will even be paying attention.

[Source: Automotive News – Sub. Req.]