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ZF's new 9-speed transmission factory provides one example of economic impact

In the age-old debate of whether government regulations help or hinder economic growth, here's one example where more rules have helped create American jobs.

2011 Range Rover TDV8 – Click above for high-res image gallery

Chrysler eight-speed automatic transmission – click above to watch the video

Chrysler is set to become the first U.S.-based automaker to adopt eight-speed automatic transmissions. ZF announced on Wednesday that it has reached an agreement to provide its increasingly widely used 8HP transmission for Chrysler applications. Initially, ZF will build transmissions for Chrysler, but the automaker is also getting a license to produce the transmissions in-house. Chrysler will tool up its Kokomo, IN transmission plant by 2013 to produce the 8HP and at the same time ZF will build

One door closes, another one opens. Just as Chrysler is working to extricate itself from its deal with Getrag, the Pentastar people are about to announce a deal with ZF Friedrichshafen AG. Chrysler is erecting a plant in Marysville, Michigan that will build axles and employ 900 workers, but word is that the deal will involve ZF signing a long-term commitment to operate the plant.

Last year, Lexus became the first automaker to introduce a production eight-speed automatic transmission in the latest LS460. Recently, German transmission manufacturer ZF announced a new eight-speed of its own which is claimed to provide a 14-percent boost in fuel efficiency compared to a five-speed. It looks like Audi and BMW will likely be the first to directly challenge Lexus when they start using the ZF. Audi may be first out of the gate in 2009, with eight-speed installations in the A8, Q7

In the name of increased efficiency, and quite possibly playing the game of automotive one-upmanship, luxury automakers such as Mercedes Benz, BMW and Lexus have been adding more and more gear ratios to their automatic transmissions. By allowing a computer to choose the most appropriate ratio for any given scenario, the vehicle's engine is required to only make as much power as absolutely necessary, potentially saving fuel in the process. ZF, one of the largest transmission makers in the world,

Is it solely a case of one-upmanship that is driving the number of forward gear ratios forward in today's passenger cars? Or, are consumers choosing vehicles based on the number of gears in the transmission? I am not entirely sure, but I do know that I would consider passing on a vehicle just because it only has a four-speed transmission. As rare as they are today, some vehicles, like the GM full-size pickups, are still using four-speed automatic transmissions. Before you comment, I know that th

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