In the ongoing fight to increase fuel economy numbers, Chrysler is planning a big switch to a new nine-speed automatic transmission later this year for front- and all-wheel-drive vehicles. The automaker says it anticipates it will build as many as 200,000 nine-speed transmissions this year for the Dodge Dart, all-new Chrysler 200 midsize sedan coming later this year, and the Jeep Liberty replacement, which will become a crossover in its next iteration.
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has confirmed that the Jeep Liberty will be the first to get the new transmission, as it’ll be shipping to dealers sometime in the second quarter of 2013. We’re likely to see it for the first time in production-specification at April’s New York Auto Show.
Switching to a front-drive platform that it will share with the 2013 Fiat 500L, the new Liberty is just part of the lighter, more efficient Chrysler lineup that’s coming this year. It is expected that technologies will be shared between Chrysler and its Italian cousins, Fiat and Alfa Romeo.
In the Dodge Dart, the nine-speed auto will be joining various manual and automatic transmissions, likely supplanting the six-speed automatic transmission found in cars equipped with its base 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Darts equipped with the available turbocharged 1.4-liter engine have been available with a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic that essentially works as a fully computer-controlled manual transmission. It has gotten a lukewarm reception since it arrived in the Dart.
Finally, Chrysler will launch the 2014 Chrysler 200 that will set the tone for the rest of the brand, design-wise. The current Chrysler 200 was a bit of a piece-together ordeal using whatever could be salvaged from the lackluster Chrysler Sebring sedan. Somehow, Chrysler engineers made it work. Now that Chrysler will be fully funded, no longer in the throes of bankruptcy, the automaker says the next car will grow and become more stylish. We hope so.
Chrysler has been one of the most outstanding comeback stories since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009 under its new Italian ownership. Selling more than 1.65 million vehicles in the U.S. last year, the automaker has been on a tear with new products, ever-increasing sales, and an aggressive rollout strategy accompanied by an aggressive marketing push. While we think a nine-speed automatic is starting to reach the outer limits of absurdity, we’re eager to see how Chrysler will implement it in the Jeep Liberty, Dodge Dart, and Chrysler 200 and how it’ll affect fuel economy.