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What do Mustang and Camaro have in common?
| Published on 7/24/2016
Soon, more than you'd think.
Starting next year, the Chevrolet Camaro will share a transmission with the Ford Mustang.
Cross-town collaboration between General Motors and Ford Motor Co. was once unfathomable. But cost cutting, engineer shortages and increasing regulations made it inevitable.
“It is surprising,” said Gale Halderman, the Ford designer responsible for the exterior of the first Mustang. “Back in my time, we couldn’t even talk to anybody from GM.”
Detroit’s pony-car war has been raging for half a century now. In recent years, Ford and GM have worked together on a number of projects, including six-speed transmissions used in the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Ford Escape and Chevy Equinox. But none of those vehicles stirs up emotions like a Mustang’s full-throated roar or a Camaro’s smooth purr.
The 2017 Camaro ZL1 is the first of eight vehicles slated to get GM’s 10-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission. Some versions of the Mustang are expected to get the same gearbox for 2018. A screenshot from Ford’s dealership parts-lookup system, posted on the website Mustang6G.com last week, all but confirmed longstanding rumors that the Mustang was in line for a 10-speed automatic. (A Ford spokesman declined to discuss its future product plans.)
That transmission and a nine-speed automatic for front-wheel-drive vehicles were jointly developed by Ford and GM under a partnership they started in 2013. Ford has said the 10-speed will be offered in the 2017 F-150 this fall, and GM is expected to put it on full-size pickups next year.
But that’s not to say customers would ever notice any similarities between the Camaro and Mustang or the F-150 and Chevy Silverado. Even though some internal components are identical, the two companies will build, integrate, program and tune their transmissions independently.
“We will each use our own control software to ensure that each transmission is carefully matched to the individual, brand-specific vehicle DNA for each company,” Craig Renneker, Ford’s chief engineer of transmission and driveline components and pre-program engineering, said when the automakers announced their 2013 deal.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne, in a manifesto last year advocating for industry consolidation, complained that up to half of a vehicle’s development cost is spent on proprietary components that are “not discernible to customers.”
Devin Lindsay, a powertrain engineer with IHS Automotive, said the huge capital costs of today’s industry make working together a necessity.
“You look at the overall cost, and why duplicate that?” he said. “Imagine the amount of time it frees up at the engineering level. That allows them to use resources in other areas. You may want to collaborate on some things, but there are others that are more of the secret sauce that differentiates you with the buyer.”
And expect the sales race between the Mustang and Camaro to be as intense as ever. The Camaro was the top seller between the two in the U.S. from 2010 through 2014, but five months into 2016, the Mustang was on track to pull out a win for the second year in a row.
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