Chrysler will soon be offering a new eight-speed automatic transmission developed by Germany’s ZF and used by luxury marques like BMW and Audi. The new transmission is said to be both more fuel-efficient and cheaper to manufacture than ZF’s popular six-speed unit that’s currently used by numerous automakers. Furthermore, its performance is claimed to be comparable with more advanced dual clutch units despite its conventional torque converter design.

Chrysler will invest $300 million to convert its existing Kokomo transmission plant in Indiana in order to start manufacturing the new transmission in 2013.

The design of the particular ZF eight-speed transmission already in use by other automakers is said to improve fuel consumption by around 14 percent compared with a standard five-speed automatic. This is because of its longer gear ratios. ZF’s engineers have also improved the design to include compatibility with stop-start technology, allowing the close-geared system to shut the engine down when a vehicle comes to a stop and fire it back up and drive off at a moment’s notice.

Specific product information and timing for the new transmission will come at a later date, though Chrysler has announced that it will feature across the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram Truck product lineup. Look for its debut in high-end models like the next-generation Chrysler 300 and the new Jeep Grand Cherokee.

[Chrysler]