ZF-9-Speed-TransmissionThese are crazy times, nobody can deny that. The auto industry in particular has seen a remarkable change, from building gas-guzzling SUVs loaded with bling, and muscle cars barely making 300 horsepower to now developing electric cars alongside 662 horsepower monsters like the 2013 Shelby GT500.

Even so, higher gas prices and stricter emission laws mean that automakers are forging unlikely alliances in the pursuit of the more power and greater efficiency. Ford and GM announced last week that they are forming a partnership to jointly develop a 9 or 10-speed automatic transmission for use in next-gen cars. Also, Hell just froze over.

Rumors about this partnership have swirled since last fall, but the two automakers only just confirmed the truth of the matter. The project is working to develop transmissions for both front and rear-wheel drive applications, and will be utilized in cars, trucks, crossovers, and SUVs. In other words, this project is expected to produce more than just one transmission.

The joint-venture is also expected to reduce parts burdens on suppliers. The Detroit automakers commonly use the same suppliers for components such as transmission internals, although different designs mean that those suppliers must invest more in tooling, equipment, and engineering to produce all the different parts. By jointly developing these transmissions the number of unique parts is vastly reduced, which in turn should hopefully reduce the cost of manufacturing in the long run.

GM and Ford have co-developed transmissions before, including the six-speed automatic found in the Ford Fusion and Chevy Cruze sedans. But it sounds to us like these two Detroit players feel like they may be falling behind Chrysler, which has already rolled out an eight-speed automatic for its Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans, and is working on a 9-speed transmission of its own.

With Fiat in its corner, Chrysler already has a partner with which to share technology. Might this GM and Ford partnership be a sign of future cooperation between the long time rivals?