General Motors Co. and Chinese-partner SAIC Motor Corp. sign an agreement to develop a family of small-displacement engines and an advanced transmission that expands their cooperative ventures for the first time into powertrains.

The agreement was signed by Tom Stephens, GM vice chairman-global product operations and SAIC Motor President Chen Hong.

“The co-development of these new engines and transmissions builds on a strong history of innovation and collaboration between GM and SAIC Motor,” Stephens says in a statement issued by both auto makers.

“Together, we will continue to quickly provide our customers leading-edge technologies that improve vehicle fuel efficiency and deliver robust performance.”

The all-new lightweight turbocharged engine will be produced in 1.0L to 1.5L versions. It initially will be applied to vehicles in China and then used on various GM vehicles around the world, according to the statement.

GM does not elaborate on launch timing for the engine or transmission, nor does it disclose financial details of the development partnership. Applications for Asia/Pacific and elsewhere will be announced later.

GM Powertrain in Detroit and the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center in Shanghai will jointly develop the technology. PATAC is a GM-SAIC Motor joint venture.

GM’s Adam Opel GmbH unit in Germany typically would carry out the auto maker’s small-engine development.

Opel’s “Family 0” network of engines, which includes 1.0L, 1.2L and 1.4L displacements, dates back more than decade. The newest generation, which began production late last year, arrives in the U.S. for the first time in September with the launch of the Chevrolet Cruze and its 1.4L port-injection turbocharged 4-cyl. engine.

GM spokeswoman Sharon Basel says the auto maker chose PATAC for development of the new family of pint-sized engines to take greater advantage of its global engineering resources and alliance partners.

GM recently shifted longtime powertrain chief Dan Hancock to vice president-global alliances and joint ventures, to better cultivate the auto maker’s various global partnerships. Hancock supervised a now-defunct partnership with Fiat Automobile SpA earlier in the decade that oversaw development of the Family 0 engines at Opel.

The new transaxle transmission will feature dry dual-clutch technology, a first-ever application from GM. China recently incentivized the development of dual-clutch transmissions, picking it as a key technology for improving powertrain efficiency.

As the country’s booming auto industry further expands, its government wants reduce its reliance on imported oil with specific technologies.

GM says its new dual-clutch will shift as smoothly as conventional fully automatic transmissions and provide a 10% improvement in fuel economy. The engine and transmission together will produce a 20% reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions, the auto maker says.

“These development agreements open an exciting new chapter in the partnership between SAIC and GM,” SAIC Chairman Hu Maoyuan says in a statement.

“Not only will they add critical green technologies to our next-generation vehicles, they will also build on the strong engineering capabilities forged as a part of GM and SAIC's corporate responsibility.”

–with James M Amend