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Over the course of the next three years, Ford Motor Company plans to invest $850 million to retool seven of its Michigan plants. A significant portion of this funding will go towards engineering and producing Ford's new six-speed automatic transmission. By 2013, this six-speed auto, which is touted as one of Ford's most efficient trannies, will be available in every model in the automaker's lineup.

When Ford launched the redesigned Escape and Mariner compact CUVs last year, the bodies and interiors were all new but the powertrains were largely carried over from the first-generation models. For the 2009 model year, that issue has been addressed with thorough upgrades to both four- and six-cylinder engines. We'll talk more about the engine upgrades next week after we drive them. In the meantime we got an early look at the new automatic transmission for the non-hybrid models. The previous fou