Chrysler Group has said that alongside the more widespread adoption of 8-speed transmissions, it’s also planning to introduce 9-speed units next year.

Since its restructuring Chrysler hasn’t invested a great deal in alternative powertrains or downsized engines, instead relying on more gears to boost fuel economy. Such an approach requires less of an investment than developing EVs or plug-in hybrids and so far, appears to be working in Chrysler’s favor.

“They’re getting tremendous differentiation from their old product,” remarked Alan Baum, an auto industry forecaster with West Bloomfield, Mich. based Baum & Associates who also collaborates with HybridCars.com on its monthly Dashboard.

The introduction of 8-speed transmission has boosted the popularity of certain Chrysler models, including V6-powered 300 and Dodge Charger sedans, sales of which are up 68 percent in 2012, due to advertised 31 miles per gallon combined fuel ratings from the EPA.

However, some say there are limits to just how much more efficiency Chrysler can squeeze out of transmissions with more gears. The North American president of transmission maker ZF, Julio Caspari said in a recent interview with Automotive News, that there is just an 11-percent differentiation between today’s transmissions and a theoretically “perfect” unit.

With Fiat’s troubles in Europe, CEO Sergio Marchionne’s strategy toward meeting proposed Corporate Average Fuel Economy targets has so far proved to be a prudent one (with $1.3 billion invested in transmission development since 2007).

That said; it will be interesting to see just how far it can go and if it does indeed prove to be a worthwhile option versus heavier investment in EV and hybrid technology, which so far, hasn’t provided significant returns for many automakers.

Bloomberg