It looks like an eight-speed automatic transmission will be among the changes made to the next-generation Jeep Wrangler as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles [NYSE:FCAU] looks to improve the vehicle's efficiency without compromising its off-road ability. A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission this month appears to confirm the move to an eight-speed, according to Automotive News (subscription required).

In the filing, FCA says it plans to use the eight-speed currently deployed in the Ram 1500, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and other models in "all of our rear-wheel-drive vehicles," except heavy-duty pickup trucks and the Viper supercar.

The company says the transmission—built under license from ZF—improves fuel economy by 9 percent across the board compared to the five-speed automatic it's replacing. The current Wrangler uses that five speed, and Chrysler is apparently eager to get rid of it. The automaker reportedly wanted to install the eight-speed before the redesign, but it just won't fit in the current-gen Wrangler.

This is just one of the ways Chrysler is looking at to improve the Wrangler's efficiency, but it's probably the least controversial so far. The next Wrangler will likely get an aluminum body, but keep its body-on-frame design, although a more car-like unibody was considered. Chrysler is also considering ditching the Wrangler's solid axles to save weight and improve fuel economy.

These are seen as vital off-road equipment, but FCA is under pressure to meet tightening global emissions standards, including stricter Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards here in the U.S.

There is some hope for off-road fans, however. Dana—which makes the axles—is reportedly investing in new machinery at its Fort Wayne, Indiana, plant. There's no confirmed connection to the next-gen Wrangler, but perhaps it's a good sign.


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