Continuously Variable Transmissions have a checkered history in America, with some winners but a lot of losers in the early days. Now though, CVTs are becoming more commonplace, and Ford is considering rekindling its relationship with gearless transmissions as a means to improve fuel economy in non-hybrids, reports Automotive News.
Why the change of heart? Two reasons; the growing popularity of CVTs in cars like the Honda Accord Hybrid and Nissan Altima, and the need for an automatic transmission in the Ford Fiesta SFE equipped with the three-cylinder EcoBoost engine. If you want the award-winning three-banger, you can only get it with a manual transmission, and less than 5% of new cars sold in America come with a shift-for-yourself gearbox. It’s no doubt hurting sales of the fuel-sipping Fiesta, and Ford seems ready to give CVTs another try.
Not that Ford totally abandoned gearless transmissions, as all of its hybrid products come standard with a CVT on board. But the last non-hybrid Ford with a CVT was back in 2007, and the low-quality units killed customer enthusiasm for what is in many ways a superior piece of technology.
Those mourning the loss of traditional transmission take heart though, as Ford and GM are working on a nine-speed slushbox for multiple applications, including performance. But CVTs are slowly taking their place, and one day transmissions with gears might be just as rare as manuals.