DETROIT — The gearbox Ford Motor Co. is spending $350 million to add to its Livonia transmission plant in suburban Detroit will be a front-wheel-drive eight-speed, according to an internal company memo obtained by Automotive News.
The memo, dated last June, said the eight-speed will begin production in October.
The transmission is based on the nine-speed developed with General Motors, according to a source with knowledge of the company’s plans. Ford removed a gear to save on costs and improve performance, said the source, who requested anonymity discussing internal plans.
Ford and GM have also collaborated on a 10-speed for rear-wheel-drive vehicles, which Ford has used in its F-150 pickup and Raptor performance truck. Ford’s 10-speed is built in Livonia.
In a statement, Ford said the transmission "will provide customers better-performing, more fuel-efficient vehicles. It will share software, design elements and manufacturing processes with the 10-speed and other future transmissions."
Ford last week said the investment — part of its 2015 contract with the UAW — would result in a fwd transmission with similar components to the 10-speed, but declined to provide further details.
“We’ll have more to say about that at a future date,” spokeswoman Kelli Felker wrote in an email.
The addition of the eight-speed will create or retain 800 jobs, although Ford said most of those will be filled by current employees. It expects to begin adding jobs late this year, with most coming next year and in 2019.
“We remain committed to American manufacturing and investing in our people and facilities,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, said in a statement. “Even as the industry’s largest employer of hourly workers in the United States and biggest producer of American-made vehicles, we believe it is important to continue investing right here in our home market.”
Ford in its 2015 UAW deal vowed to invest $1.8 billion in the plant and add three transmissions. Last year, it announced a $1.4 billion investment to make the 10-speed.
The plant employs about 1,800 hourly workers.