TJ. I had the same question, but I'll just throw it out to the community at large. Anybody have an idea of how mechanical complexity (reliability, mainenance cost, etc.) trade off with improved gas mileage? Obviously Ford and GM are driven to CAFE standards first and foremost, but what will the consumer have to "pay" over the vehicle life?
One question about the new transmission will be about how much power is used overcoming friction and keeping all of those gears spinning. The problems with the CVT types of transmissions were durability and cost, and I suspect that they had a bit more drag than a good manual 5 speed transmission. None of the power used to drive the hydraulic pumps in an automatic transmission is available to drive the vehicle, so there is a sort of problem right from the beginning. Unfortunately, all of the mechanism to provide the automated smooth shifting does consume a fair amount of power. Is there any competitive way around this challenge?
Continuously Variable Transmissions were being developed for Saturn, by Hydro-matric, (both divisions of GM) in 1984. I was a detail draftsman in the CAD center there, right after college. Don't ask me too much, though; I only lasted in that sweat-shop for about 6 months before landing a much better job!
This is no big surprise. Everyone knows that GM has the best automatics in the business. That's a long pedigree going back as far as the hydra-matics, Turbo-hydramatics, etc.
That's Ford has jumped on the bandwagon with a GM supplied transmission. That's why Rolls Royce selected GM automatics for the Phantom V, more than sixty years ago.
Speaking of GM and Rolls Royce and automatics, I'm reminded of the anecdote about Rolls Royce receiving and testing the first GM build hydramatics for their Phantom V. This was when they first allowed an automatic of any kind in the vaunted Rolls Royce automobile. Recognizing that GM far outstripped them in experience and manufacturing, Rolls Royce turned to GM for an automatic transmission solution. GM supplied Hydramatics, the same transmission in Cadillac automobiles of the era. But, for some reason, the Brits were having trouble with the transmissions, and GM engineers were called in. Transmissions which were checked and double checked before leaving the US developed mysterious shifting problems once installed in the famous English marques. Engineers were puzzled and travelled to England to see what was up.
Turns out the Rolls Royce folks and taken the Hydramatics apart and carefully polished the Hydramatic cases and parts. This was done because they were "rough looking" and "not up to the Rolls Royce standard of finish". In doing so, they polished not only the externals, but the internal parts, including the valve body passages. In doing so they disrupted the carefully managed internal hydraulic pressures and valve body flow of the transmissions, thereby ruining the shifting characteristics.