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ZF Friedrichshafen CEO Stefan Sommer says that the race to keep on adding gears to transmissions has nearly reached its limit with the nine-gear transmission.

Sommer’s statement comes as carmakers and transmission makers continue to try to make their transmissions more effective by adding gears with the nearly all-encompassing goal of achieving better fuel efficiency. The chasing of higher miles-per-gallon ratings has relegated to history the four- and five-speed automatics that were commonplace less than a decade ago.

Talking about the dream of building the fully efficient transmission, Sommer said, “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 argued that since more gears equals more weight and complexity, adding them does not make sense. In fact, Julio Caspari, head of ZF in North America, recently said that the most efficient transmissions of today are just 11% off the efficiency of the “theoretically perforce transmission.”

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About the author: Andrew Greene


Now playing the role of grumpy old man in the foothills of Northern California’s Gold Country, Andrew has had a life-long love affair with vehicles of all sorts, from the bicycle he pedaled across the continent in 1991 to the armored personnel carriers he drove in the Army to the bamboo rafts, elephants, motorcycle taxis, ferries and buses he traveled by during the 13 years he lived and worked in South East Asia. Always eager to learn more about how the people of the world get from here to there in their day-today lives, he, a professional journalist, has been covering the vehicle industry for years.


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  1. Pingback: Ford, GM Creating 10-Speed Transmissions – Too Many Gears?

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