ZF has launched a new nine-speed transmission that promises to boost fuel economy by as much as 16 percent.

ZF - a worldwide leader in automotive transmissions - has announced a new nine-speed automatic gearbox for passenger cars with front-transverse drive. ZF says the new gearbox can provide up to a 16 percent fuel economy improvement when compared to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Referred to as the 9HP, the nine-speed unit is extremely flexible, capable of being used in front- and all-wheel drive applications. The gearbox is also compatible with automatic start-stop systems and hybrid drivetrains.

The 9HP is capable of withstanding between 206 and 353 lb-ft of torque, making it ideal for four- and six-cylinder applications. ZF has yet to announce any OEM customers, but says the unit was designed for "customers in the USA and the Asian markets."

The nine-speed unit uses a standard torque converter, which ZF says aids in smooth starts and maneuverability. The gearbox has a total spread of 9.84, but shifting points and shifting dynamics can be customized by the end user.

No word on when we might see the new nine-speed unit on the road, but ZF may have just set the new industry benchmark.