The folks at GM Inside News have learned the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu will be GM's first to use a nine-speed automatic transmission jointly developed by GM and Ford.

Initially, at least, the new gearbox's availability will be limited to the top-trim Premier model -- in which it will replace an eight-speed used currently -- while lesser trims will carry on with a six-speed auto.

Nine-speed Malibus will also get a taller (lower) final drive ratio relative to the outgoing eight-speed cars (it will drop to 2.89:1 from 3.08), so we expect this car will be a very relaxed highway cruiser.

Truth be told, nine speeds sound like old news now, given GM and Ford recently unveiled a 10-speed the companies co-engineered (used in the Camaro and F-150); Hyundai has been rumoured to have a 10-speed up its sleeve since 2011, but it hasn't yet been announced for a production model.

Chrysler, Acura and Land Rover have been selling a nine-speed, built by Germany's ZF, for more than two years.