Spy photos by KGP Photography
We just got a note from one of our favorite spy shooters who's been seeing some interesting things while waiting in a secret location, which is typically outside truckmakers’ proving grounds. Here's what the spy photographer wrote us:
"We saw something very unexpected leaving General Motors' Proving Grounds in Milford, Mich. — a prototype of Ford's 2015 F-150 pickup. This is just about the last thing we expected to see while trolling GM turf, but there it was. When we spoke to one of our in-the-know people at Ford, alarm bells didn't go off on the other end of the phone, so it was clear that we hadn't blown the lid off some industrial espionage scandal. Although they wouldn't provide any details, their demeanor made it clear there was a logical reason for something that seemed so ... illogical.
"This very out-of-place prototype — caught exiting what is most certainly enemy territory — could be giving us our first piece of physical evidence of the fruits from the Ford/General Motors joint-venture transmission program. This past spring, it was widely reported that GM and Ford had entered into a partnership to develop a nine- and 10-speed automatic transmission for use in a wide variety of vehicles. No vehicle specifics have been provided thus far. With this top secret F-150 prototype clearly spending time on GM's turf, the logical conclusion seems to be that the F-150 will be outfitted with either a nine-speed or 10-speed variant of that joint-venture transmission. Regardless of the final cog count for the 2015 F-150's automatic transmission, it seems seems certain that it will top the eight-speed automatic offered on the latest Ram pickups.
"The new 2014 Silverado made its debut with, what some called, an out-dated carryover six-speed transmission. We expect that the new fuel-saving, joint-venture transmission will also make its appearance in the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra, with a timetable coinciding with the official market launch of the 2015 Ford F-150."
No matter what happens at Ford or GM, they'll both need to do something dramatic to deal with the coming federal regulations rolling in for 2016 and 2025 model-year vehicles, where, in some cases, full-size pickups will need to significantly improve their current fuel-economy numbers.