How many is too many? When you're talking the number of ratios offered in automatic transmissions, it seems the industry is always interested in adding one more gear; four-speeds turned into five, then six, seven and now eight. Where will it all end? According to Stefan Sommer, CEO of transmission maker ZF, nine is the ultimate endgame.

"There is no hard line, but you have to consider the law of diminishing returns. The question is whether adding even more gears makes sense," he said, speaking at the Automobilwoche Congress in Germany. Back in July, ZF North American president Julio Caspari voiced similar statements, saying that today's best automatic transmissions are very nearly perfect – just 11 percent shy of their theoretical apogee – in efficiency.

Does this mean the race for more gears is officially over? Don't count on it. Automakers ranging from Ford and General Motors to Hyundai are all rumored to be working on automatic gearboxes with as many ratios as you have fingers and thumbs. As we're so often reminded, it seems the mine-is-bigger-than-yours marketing ethos will always be in play...


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 56 Comments
      AndrewH
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Automakers ranging from Ford and General Motors to Hyundai are all rumored to be working on automatic gearboxes with as many ratios as you have fingers and thumbs." How the hell does an 8 1/2 speed transmission work?
      GreenN_Gold
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Automakers ranging from Ford and General Motors to Hyundai are all rumored to be working on automatic gearboxes with as many ratios as you have fingers and thumbs." 10 gears is great, but who will be rock and roll enough to turn it up to 11?
        Brandon Allen
        • 2 Years Ago
        @GreenN_Gold
        Why not just take tenth gear and make that one a little taller? .......Our gear boxes go to eleven.
      KaBoomBOX
      • 2 Years Ago
      Isn't that what they said about 5 speed transmissions? Every time a limit is imposed, technology seems to surpass it. Engines will become smaller yet more powerful, and transmissions will adapt to make those smaller engines more useable.
      joejoe509
      • 2 Years Ago
      Awww... really? I'd sure like to say I've got a 10 speed just like my childhood bicycle. Lol. Plus, 10 just seems like a nice round number. But then I'm sure someone will say 12 makes a nice even dozen. And then someone will say well then why not 15 gears? I guess this could get a little ridiculous.
      telm12345
      • 2 Years Ago
      I don't know if anyone here is an engineer, but I'm curious about their thoughts on this. More moving parts generally means greater possibility of issues, so at one point does it stop being mechanically logical. Is 9 it? As said below, it'll probably be a marketing ploy more than anything.
      JaMarcus Park
      • 2 Years Ago
      Mine goes up to 11
      Willis CurryFans
      • 2 Years Ago
      I want a 12 speed manual like they have in 18 wheelers. low/hi side splitter & 2 speed reverse as well!
      k.naz
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why do I keep thinking someone *cough* Audi/Lexus *cough* might come up with 12 speeds within the next half decade?
      Reid
      • 2 Years Ago
      And no one will ever need more than 64k of RAM in a personal computer...
      Fonin
      • 2 Years Ago
      mine goes to 11. obligatory.
      Brent Booth
      • 2 Years Ago
      ...And they will last about 20 minutes. Auto transmissions already suck. The majority of older (12-15 years +) cars feel like the transmission are made of cheese and the mounts are bolted directly to your seat, when you shift into drive.
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
        The Wasp
        • 2 Years Ago
        So you're saying that because Americans usually drive under 70mph and our gas is under $5/gallon we just shouldn't worry about fuel efficiency?
          • 2 Years Ago
          @The Wasp
          [blocked]
          • 2 Years Ago
          @The Wasp
          [blocked]
    • Load More Comments