BMW will offer an eight-speed automatic transmission in 2009, according to industry sources cited by Automotive News and consultancy CSM Worldwide. The transmission is being developed by ZF Friedrichshafen.

It will debut as part of the next-generation 7-Series sedan. It will help the German luxury car maker compete with the Lexus LS460, which debuted last month with an eight-speed gearbox. The new IS-F sports sedan also uses the transmission.

Lexus developed its transmission in response to Mercedes' seven-speed auto, which was launched in late 2003. In 2001, the first six-speed automatic debuted in the BMW 7-Series.

BMW isn't the only automaker getting on the eight-speed bandwagon. General Motors is expected to market an eight-speed automatic, as evidenced by trademark filings uncovered in September. The transmission will likely be used by Cadillac, and possibly Buick.