Ford Motor Company is getting pretty amped about continuously-variable transmissions, or CVTs, and plans to make gearlessness available on three models this fall: the Ford Freestyle sport wagon and Five Hundred sedan, plus the Mercury Montego sedan. The worry is that most automobile shoppers haven't the slightest inkling of what a CVT does, or that it can be beneficial. Basically, instead of separate gears with different ratios, CVTs use belts or chains that constantly vary the gear ratios based on the speed of the vehicle, so that the engine is always operating at its most efficient point. This efficiency translates into up to a 10 percent increase in fuel economy.

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