BRITISH ENGINEERING FIRM Ricardo has announced that it will collaborate with Weifang Shengrui Power Machinery Technology on the development of an advanced eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The Ricardo-Shengrui deal will result in a gearbox that will have more ratios than any other Chinese-made transmission, but will also - its makers claim - rival some of the world's most prestigious automakers for driveline sophistication.
Currently, Lexus is the only manufacturer to offer an eight-speed torque converter-equipped automatic transmission, which is fitted to its LS range, GS 460 and the hi-po IS-F sports sedan.
BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Hyundai currently have plans to introduce a ZF-sourced eight-speed auto (pictured at top), but an introduction date for their gearboxes has yet to be firmed up.
While an agreement has been knocked up between Ricardo and Shengrui, it's not yet clear what Chinese brands will utilise the new eight-speed. As a parts supplier, Shengrui could feasibly supply any of China's numerous car companies with the hi-tech transmission, but so far a buyer has yet to make themselves known.
What is known, however, is that the emergence of a semi-indigenous eight-ratio gearbox will allow China's automakers to really up the ante in the quality, performance and fuel economy stakes.
The new gearbox will be designed to be compatible with four-wheel-drive systems and hybrid powertrains, and opens up a wealth of possibilities for manufacturers who choose it for their vehicles.
Given Ricardo is the company responsible for the Veyron's tungsten-tough seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox, Shengrui's '8AT' is bound to be a good piece of kit.