Bill Goodrich, assistant chief engineer of the eight-speed transmission program at General Motors, speaks about the new Toledo-made transmission used in the Corvette Z06 in Detroit.
DETROIT — One of General Motors Co.’s top transmission engineers said Monday the company’s new eight-speed transmission that will be produced in Toledo was designed with the 2015 Corvette Z06 in mind.
“We knew it was going to be an enthusiast’s car. We needed a transmission that could handle that torque and power,” said Bill Goodrich, assistant chief engineer for the eight-speed automatic.
PHOTO GALLERY: North American International Auto Show
GM officials unveiled the new high-performance Corvette model Monday at the North American International Auto Show, a year to the day after showing the redesigned 2014 Corvette Stingray for the first time. At the press event unveiling the Z06, GM’s North America President Mark Reuss called the car “big nasty.”
That name fits. With a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8, the Z06 version packs an estimated 625 horsepower, compared with the Stingray’s standard 455 horsepower. GM officials said they did not have an automatic transmission in their portfolio that could handle that kind of power and fit in a high-performance car before developing the eight-speed.
GM announced in 2011 that the Toledo Transmission plant on Alexis Road would build the eight-speed automatic transmission and has to date invested about $260 million into the project.
The Z06 Corvette will be the first vehicle to use the new transmission. The company previously said the transmission “will be used in numerous GM vehicles by the end of 2016” but had not identified any. Still, it’s likely a version of GM’s eight-speed will be used in other rear-wheel drive vehicles, including the Cadillac CTS and full-size pickup trucks. GM officials have previously said engineers have the ability to tailor the transmission toward performance or fuel economy.
And even in the Corvette, the transmission helps boost fuel mileage. Mr. Goodrich said final testing needs to be done, but officials expect a 5 percent improvement over the existing six-speed.
Toledo Transmission, also known as the Powertrain plant, currently has 1,890 employees. GM officials have repeatedly praised the plant for its versatility and skilled work force. It’s also one of the most high-tech in the company.
“I don’t think you’ll find any transmission manufacturing facility with any more automation or technology than is being used in the Toledo plant,” Mr. Goodrich said.
The Corvette Z06, on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, is the first vehicle to utilize the new eight-speed transmission built at the Toledo Transmission plant on Alexis Road.
As the company worked through the prototype process, it was somewhat unusually building those transmissions in Toledo, rather than at one of its technology centers.
“Obviously quality is a big deal. We want to make sure that when we start building full production that the tools have all been tested out, the processes have all been verified, and that the people doing the work are comfortable with the job,” Mr. Goodrich said.
The plant also makes six-speed automatic transmissions for front-wheel and rear-wheel drive vehicles. It is one of GM’s busiest plants, building about 5,000 transmissions every day.
Mr. Goodrich said engineers were tasked with making the new eight-speed transmission weigh no more in the Corvette than the six-speed that it is replacing. In the end, they were actually able to shave eight pounds. That’s about the same as a gallon of milk, but in the world of super cars, where mass is measured in grams — not pounds — it’s huge.
“The platform guys would give their right arm for a pound,” Mr. Goodrich said. “It’s a big deal to them.”
GM says the quick-shifting eight-speed plays an important role in squeezing the most performance possible out of the Corvette.
“The new eight-speed automatic offers drivers the comfort and drivability of a true automatic transmission, as well as lightning-fast shifts and manual control for track driving,” Tadge Juechter, Corvette chief engineer, said in a statement.
GM is also offering the Z06 with a traditional seven-speed manual transmission. It’s somewhat rare for high-performance cars to offer two transmission choices. Officials say performance differences between the two transmissions should be negligible, but that they wanted to offer drivers the choice.
Production of the 2015 Corvette Z06 will begin late this year at the company’s Bowling Green, Ky., plant, with first deliveries coming in early 2015. Pricing hasn’t yet been announced.
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