Hyundai has developed its own 6-speed automatic transmission, which according to the company makes it just the third major carmaker in the world to have achieved this feat. Hyundai also claims that the new transmission boosts fuel economy by over 12%, while shedding 12kg and 62 parts compared to their 5-speed unit.

The transmission went into production this month and will first arrive in the new 2009 Hyundai Azera (Grandeur) equipped with the 3.3L V6 Lambda engine beginning next month. In this application, it delivers a 12.2% gain in fuel economy from 21.2mpg to a more economical 23.7mpg (10.1km/l versus 9.0km/l) over the 5-speed model. The new transmission is also 2.5% quicker in zero to 60mph (100km/h) acceleration times (7.8sec versus 8.0 sec), as well as delivering an 11% improvement in 37mph to 60mph (60km/h to 100km/h) passing performance (4.0 sec versus 4.5 sec).

A total of five variants of the 6-speed transmission will be produced to accommodate a range of petrol and diesel engines, and a total of sixteen different Hyundai models will get this transmission including the redesigned Santa Fe, which is due to arrive in late in 2009.

Toyota and a joint GM-Ford venture are the only other instances where carmakers have developed their own 6-speed automatic gearbox. Hyundai claims that its own design, however, is markedly superior to similar products from Toyota, GM and Ford due to a number of technical innovations. Additionally, the new 6-speed from Hyundai is maintenance-free - the gearbox is not equipped with a dipstick as it is filled with an automatic transmission fluid that is good for the life of the vehicle.

The story doesn’t end there as Hyundai is reportedly working on a new 8-speed automatic gearbox that is rumored to debut next year in a brand new flagship saloon.