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ZF Friedrichshafen

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ZF Friedrichshafen AG
FormerlyZahnradfabrik GmbH (1915—1921)
Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen AG (1921—1991)
Company typePrivate (Aktiengesellschaft)
IndustryEngineering & manufacturing:
Automotive industry (car and CV),
rail transport,
marine engineering,
PredecessorZF Sachs Edit this on Wikidata
Founded20 August 1915; 108 years ago (1915-08-20)
FounderFerdinand von Zeppelin
Alfred von Soden-Fraunhofen
Friedrichshafen, Baden-Württemberg
Number of locations
162 production locations in 31 countries
Area served
Key people
ProductsTransmission systems,[1]
steering, axle components, Electronic Systems, Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), Inflatable Restraint Systems/Airbag, Seat Belt Systems, Brake Systems
ServicesDesign, Research and development
RevenueIncrease 46.6 billion (2023)[3]
Increase €763 million (2023)[3]
Decrease €126 million (2023)[3]
Total assetsIncrease €39.170 billion (2023)[3]
Total equityIncrease €7.512 billion (2023)[3]
OwnersZeppelin Foundation (93.8%)
Dr. Jürgen und Irmgard Ulderup Foundation (6.2%)[4][5]
Number of employees
Increase 167,738 (2023)[3]
DivisionsActive Safety Systems,[6] Car Chassis Technology, [6]
Electrified Powertrain Technology, [6]
Electronics & ADAS, [6]
Passive Safety Systems, [6]
Commercial Vehicle Solutions, [6]
Industrial Technology, [6]
Aftermarket [6]

ZF Friedrichshafen AG, also known as ZF Group, originally Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen (lit.'Cogwheel Factory of Friedrichshafen'), and commonly abbreviated to ZF, is a German technology manufacturing company that supplies systems for passenger cars, commercial vehicles and industrial technology. It is headquartered in Friedrichshafen, in the south-west German state of Baden-Württemberg. Specializing in engineering, it is primarily known for its design, research and development, and manufacturing activities in the automotive industry and is one of the largest automotive suppliers in the world. Its products include driveline and chassis technology for cars and commercial vehicles, along with specialized plant equipment such as construction equipment. It is also involved in the rail, marine, defense and aviation industries, as well as general industrial applications. ZF has 162 production locations in 31 countries with approximately 168,700 (2023) employees.


Ferdinand von Zeppelin in 1915, photograph by Theodor Hilsdorf

The company was founded by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, the inventor of the zeppelin airship and engineer Alfred von Soden-Fraunhofen in 1915 in Friedrichshafen, Germany as a subsidiary of Luftschiffbau Zeppelin, to manufacture gears for zeppelins and other airships.[7] The German Zahnradfabrik translates to 'gear factory' or cogwheel factory' in English.

In 1999, the steering systems division was made separate and became the new ZF Lenksysteme GmbH, a joint venture between ZF Friedrichshafen and Robert Bosch GmbH.

Due to the 2008 financial crisis ZF took a €250 million loan from the state-owned KfW Bank and embarked on a company-wide restructure that shut down unprofitable locations, particularly outside Germany, the total number of employees was reduced from 63,000 to 59,000 worldwide.[8] CEO Hans-Georg Härter stated that the combined effects of the loan and restructuring will eliminate the need for further employee reduction.[9]

On 16 September 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that ZF agreed to acquire TRW Automotive Holdings for $13.5 billion. The acquisition would create the world's second largest automotive parts concern, ranked just behind Robert Bosch GmbH.[10] For clearing way to acquire TRW Automotive Holdings, ZF Friedrichshafen AG sold its stake in ZF Lenksysteme GmbH to Robert Bosch GmbH.[11] ZF Lenksysteme GmbH has now been renamed as Robert Bosch Automotive Steering GmbH.[12]

In September 2020, ZF Friedrichshafen AG entered a partnership with Aeva Inc. to put LIDAR sensors for self-driving vehicles, into production.[13]


Dr. Holger Klein, CEO

Some of the most important milestones:

  • 1919: ZF entered the automobile market, a move prompted by heavy restrictions on aircraft manufacturing imposed by the Treaty of Versailles.[14]
  • 1920: Patent application submitted for the Soden six speed transmission.
  • 1921: Under a rampant inflation and investor fears, the company went public as the Zepernicker Zahnradfabrik, with the Zeppelin Luftschiffbau GmbH holding 80% of the stock options, valued at 4 million marks.
  • 1927: Moved to Friedrichshafen and changed the name to ZF Friedrichshafen.
  • 1929: A thriving auto industry warrants the series production of the innovative helical ZF Aphon transmission for cars and commercial vehicles.
  • 1932: Launch of steering systems production under license by ZF Lenksysteme GmbH.
  • 1944: On 3 August,[15] the Zahnradfabrik was bombed by the 304th BW/Fifteenth Air Force.[16] As early as 20 September 1942, Albert Speer had warned Hitler of how important the Friedrichshafen tank engine production and the Schweinfurt ball-bearing facilities were.[17] After the bombing, the company was relocated to former location, Zepernick until the 1970s.[citation needed]
  • 1944: Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen created the Panzer IV hydrostatischer, the only tank that they modified with their hydraulic drive.
  • 1953: Market launch of the first fully synchronised transmission for commercial vehicles worldwide.
  • 1961: Development of a fully automatic transmission for passenger cars. With series production beginning in 1969, and later proving highly popular, the 3HP20 is built to be swappable with the company's manual transmissions. The 1960s sees ZF supplying transmissions to major German automakers (including DKW, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and BMW) as well as Peugeot and Alfa Romeo.
  • 1977: Start of volume production for automatic transmissions for commercial vehicles.  Worldwide subsidiaries and factories were opened in the 1970s, and the company moved into India and South Korea.
  • 1980s: ZF started operating in Asia in the mid 80s[18]
  • 1984: Majority shareholding gained in Lemförder Metallwaren AG, rebranded as ZF Lemförder GmbH.
  • 1986: Start of U.S. transmission production in Gainesville, Georgia, for pickup trucks. ZF became a major supplier to Ford in the 1980s.
  • 1991: The 5HP18 was the first 5-speed automatic transmission for passenger cars. Introduced in 1991 on the BMW E36 320i/325i and E34 5 Series
  • 1994: Development of an automatic transmission system for heavy commercial vehicles. The company expanded into China in the 1990s.
  • 1999: World premiere for the first automatic 6-speed transmission. Series production begins in 2001, with the BMW 7 Series as the first client. Today, ZF produces around one million six-speed automatic transmissions annually.
  • 2001: Acquisition of Mannesmann Sachs AG, renamed ZF Sachs AG.
  • 2001: Active Roll Stabilization (ARS) premiere on BMW 7 Series (E65)
  • 2002: Presentation of the world's first 4-point link – a newly developed chassis module for trucks and buses.
  • 2003: First deliveries of the Active Steering systems for passenger cars.
  • 2004: Ford starts volume production of the continuously variable transmissions (CVT) for passenger cars developed by ZF.
  • 2005: The 10-millionth airbag casing, the 5-millionth passenger car axle system and the 2-millionth 'Servolectric' electric power steering system are delivered.
  • 2006: ZF produces the 10-millionth passenger car automatic transmission.
  • 2007: One of the world's first 8-speed automatic transmissions,[19][20] the 8HP[21] boasted to achieve an 11% improvement in fuel economy in comparison with standard 6-speed automatic transmissions.[22] Production began in 2009.
  • 2008: Acquisition of keyboard manufacturers Cherry Corporation. Incorporated into the ZF Electronics GmbH Corporate Division.
  • 2011: World premiere for the first automatic 9-speed transmission.[23][clarification needed]. Land Rover demonstrated the world's first nine-speed automatic transmission for a passenger car at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. The ZF 9HP transmission is designed for transverse applications, and is one of the most efficient and technically advanced transmissions ever used in a production vehicle. Land Rover is the lead partner with ZF on this project.
  • 2013: Jeep announces that ZF has developed a nine-speed automatic transmission for use in its all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee (KL) midsized crossover utility vehicle.
  • 2013: ZF Opens automatic passenger car transmission plant in Gray Court, South Carolina, U.S.[24]
  • 2014: American auto parts manufacturer TRW Automotive acquired for $13.5 billion.[25]
  • 2015: Acquired the Bosch Rexroth industrial gears and wind turbine gearbox unit (formerly Lohmann & Stolterfoht).[26]
  • 2019: ZF acquires occupant recognition software maker Simi Reality Motion Systems.[27]
  • 2019: ZF acquires auto part manufacturer WABCO.[28]
  • 2019: ZF to provide the entire electric powertrain of Mercedes EQC.[29][30]
  • 2020: ZF completes acquisition of WABCO, which will be integrated into ZF as its Commercial Vehicle Control Systems Division.[31]
  • 2022: ZF and Wolfspeed announced a joint R&D center in Germany to accelerate global Silicon Carbide system and device top innovation. ZF intends to invest in Wolfspeed, in order to support construction of the world’s most advanced and largest Silicon Carbide device fab. The partnership also includes a significant investment by ZF to support the planned construction of the world’s most advanced and largest 200mm Silicon Carbide device fab in Ensdorf, Germany.
  • 2023: ZF and Hon Hai Technology Group (“Foxconn”)  announced a 50-50 partnership in passenger car chassis systems, a key move aimed at accelerating and expanding automotive and supply chain opportunities with top-tier customers. Foxconn will acquire a 50-percent stake in ZF Chassis Modules GmbH.


ZF 8HP70 automatic gearbox
Electric-vehicle drive unit

ZF Friedrichshafen manufactures automatic and manual transmissions for cars, trucks, buses and construction equipment; chassis components (ball joints, tie rods, cross-axis joints, stabiliser bars, control arms); shock absorbers and suspension struts; electronic damping systems including Continuous Damping Control (CDC), Active Roll Stabilization (ARS); clutches; torque converters; differentials; axle drives; and industrial drives.

ZF products include[32]

  • driveline technology (automatic, manual, servo, automated manual, special transmission, driveline components, rubber-metal technology, transfer case, hybrid system)
  • chassis technology (chassis components and modules, steering technology, suspension systems)
  • additional technologies (electronic/software, diagnostic systems, precision plastic technology, lubricants)
  • Axle systems and drops


ZF components are utilized across a diverse range of vehicles and machinery, including cars, trucks, buses, light commercial vehicles, off-road equipment, rail vehicles, helicopters, motorcycles, lift trucks, machinery and system construction, test systems, cranes, as well as special marine, military and agricultural vehicles and equipment.

The ZF Lenksysteme division, a joint venture between ZF and Bosch, specializes in the production of steering systems and components. This includes steering columns, gears, pumps, Electric Power Steering (EPS), and Active Steering systems.

In response to the increasing adoption of automatic transmissions in buses, ZF developed the ZF AS Tronic transmission.[33] The company also produces a range of manual and automatic transmissions for trucks and buses. Notably, ZF transmissions, such as the Ecomat introduced in 1980, are widely used in buses.

ZF Lemförder and ZF Sachs AG are specialized divisions within ZF, focusing on the production of both original equipment and aftermarket auto parts.


ZF Friedrichshafen is organized into nine divisions, each focusing on different aspects of automotive and industrial technology:[1]

Active Safety Systems[edit]

Sales (2020): €4,987 million.

Products: Electronic Stability Control, Integrated Brake Control, Electric Park Brakes, Electrically Powered Steering Systems, and Electrically Powered Hydraulic Steering Systems.

Car Chassis Technology[edit]

Sales (2020): €6,680 million.

Products: Chassis components for wheel guidance, complete front and rear axles, passive and semi-active dampers, and electromechanical active chassis systems.

Electrified Powertrain Technology[edit]

Sales (2020): €8,459 million.

Products: Automatic Transmissions, Automated Manual Transmissions, Manual Transmissions, Dual-Clutch Automatic Transmissions, Powertrain Modules, Electronic Systems, Electric Motors, Electric Vehicle Drives, and Electronic Interfaces.

Electronics & ADAS[edit]

Sales (2020): €1,561 million.

Products: Advanced driver assistance systems, sensor technologies, integrated electronics, advanced safety domain control units, safety electronics such as airbag electronic control units, and crash sensors for the automotive industry.

Passive Safety Systems[edit]

Sales (2020): €3,503 million.

Products: Airbags, airbag inflators, seat belt systems, and steering wheels.

Commercial Vehicle Control Systems[edit]

Sales (2020): €1,539 million.

Products: Braking control systems and advanced technologies that enhance the safety, efficiency, and connectivity of commercial vehicles.

Commercial Vehicle Technology[edit]

Sales (2020): €3,307 million.

Products: Automated, manual, and powershift transmissions, drive components such as clutches and electric drives, ADAS technology including automated, camera and radar-based comfort and safety functions for trucks and buses, chassis systems, chassis components, and steering systems for vehicles.

Industrial Technology[edit]

Sales (2020): €2,687 million. Products: Transmissions and axles for agricultural and construction machinery, driveline technology for material handling systems, rail and special vehicles, marine propulsion systems, aviation technology, gearboxes for wind turbines and industrial applications, and test systems for driveline and chassis technology.


Sales (2020): €2,522 million.


ZF TRW[edit]

TRW Automotive, based in Livonia, Michigan, was originally the automotive division of TRW Inc., established in 2002. It specializes in designing, manufacturing, and selling automotive safety systems. With approximately 200 facilities and 66,100 employees across 26 countries, TRW Automotive was acquired by ZF Friedrichshafen in 2015 and now forms the Active & Passive Safety Technology division.

In October 2022, ZF spun off the Passive Safety Systems division into a standalone entity, ZF Lifetec, focusing on vehicle safety tests and equipment.[34]

Overseas facilities[edit]

ZF Group operates globally, with Europe as its primary market, followed by the Asia-Pacific region, North and South America and Middle East & Africa.[promotion?]

The company maintains six research and development (R&D) centers worldwide to tailor product development to local markets, investing approximately 5% of its sales revenue annually in R&D.

Global locations of ZF Friedrichshafen AG

In Great Britain, ZF has been active since 1973. The manufacturing base in Darlaston supplies chassis components to the British automotive industry, including Jaguar, BMW, and Land Rover. ZF Great Britain Ltd. in Nottingham also has a remanufacturing facility and customer support operations.[35]

In the NAFTA region, ZF operates 16 locations, including an R&D center near Detroit and a manufacturing plant in Laurens County, South Carolina, which began production in 2013.[36]

ZF has a significant presence in Asia, focusing on China, Korea, Japan, and Australia. Liuzhou ZF Machinery Co., Ltd. in China, a joint venture with Guangxi LiuGong Machinery Co., manufactures driveline components for construction machinery.[citation needed]

ZF's presence in India includes joint ventures and license partnerships spanning over three decades. ZF India Private Ltd., operational since 2007 in Pune, focuses on axles, off-road driveline technology, and commercial vehicle technology. The facility includes factory buildings, a warehouse, and an aftermarket service facility.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "ZF divisions and business units – Organization". ZF Friedrichshafen AG. ZF.com. Archived from the original on 23 March 2018. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
  2. ^ "ZF ZF Supervisory Board appoints Dr. Holger Klein Chairman and CEO of ZF Friedrichshafen AG". ZF Friedrichshafen AG.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Annual Report 2022 (PDF) (Report). ZF Friedrichshafen AG. Retrieved 21 March 2023.
  4. ^ "FAQs on Company". ZF Friedrichshafen AG.
  5. ^ "ZF Friedrichshafen AG Company Profile". D&B Hoovers.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "Corporate Structure". ZF Friedrichshafen AG. Retrieved 21 March 2023.
  7. ^ "Founders, Decision-Makers, Companions: Influential Figures in ZF History" (Press release). Friedrichshafen, Germany: ZF Friedrichshafen AG. 1 January 2015.
  8. ^ "ZF kommt mit 2 blauen Augen durch Krise". Reutlingen-Tübingen (in German). IG Metall Reutlingen-Tübingen. 16 December 2009.
  9. ^ "ZF erwartet Verlust". Auto, Motor und Sport. 16 July 2009. Archived from the original on 20 April 2015. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  10. ^ Boston, William (16 September 2014). "Merger creates auto-parts colossus". The Wall Street Journal. p. B1.
  11. ^ Boston, William (15 September 2014). "Bosch Agrees to Buy German Auto-Parts Supplier's Share in Steering Venture". The Wall Street Journal.
  12. ^ "Details Bosch Automotive Steering". Archived from the original on 20 July 2016. Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  13. ^ Nellis, Stephen (8 September 2020). "Aeva partners with auto supplier ZF to produce key self-driving sensors". Reuters. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  14. ^ "Founders, Decision-Makers, Companions: Influential Figures in ZF History" (Press release). Friedrichshafen, Germany: ZF Friedrichshafen AG. 1 January 2015.
  15. ^ "August 1944 Missions". www.15thaf.org.
  16. ^ "August 1944". 461st Bombardment Group Association. 461st.org. Retrieved 19 September 2009.
  17. ^ Speer, Albert (1970) [1969 – German: Erinnerungen (Recollections)]. Inside the Third Reich. Translated by Richard and Clara Winston. New York and Toronto: Macmillan. p. 433. ISBN 978-0-684-82949-4. LCCN 70119132.
  18. ^ ZF Tradition Archived 14 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine official website
  19. ^ "8-speed automatic". Lexus-Europe. Lexus.eu. 2009. Retrieved 19 September 2009.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ ZF develops 8-speed automatic transmission for passenger cars gizmag.com, 6. June 2010
  21. ^ "The freedom to exceed limits". ZF Friedrichshafen AG. Archived from the original on 19 April 2021. Retrieved 18 September 2009.
  22. ^ "Fuel saving and minimizing CO2 emissions". ZF Friedrichshafen AG. Archived from the original on 19 July 2009. Retrieved 18 September 2009.
  23. ^ "ZF Develops 9-Speed Automatic Transmission for Passenger Cars". ZF Friedrichshafen AG. Retrieved 12 January 2011.
  24. ^ "ZF Opens Passenger Car Transmission Plant in the U.S." (Press release). Gray Court/Friedrichshafen. 26 July 2013. Archived from the original on 15 August 2014. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  25. ^ Reuters TRW Takeover
  26. ^ "Acquisition perfect: ZF acquires industrial gears and wind turbine gearbox segment from Bosch Rexroth". ZF Friedrichshafen AG.
  27. ^ "ZF to acquire software specialist for occupant recognition". Autocar Professional.
  28. ^ "ZF to acquire Wabco for $7 billion". Autocar Professional. 28 March 2019. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  29. ^ "Mercedes Delayed US Deliveries of Its Electric EQC To Focus on EU Sales, But There Doesn't Seem To Be Any". Jalopnik. 5 January 2020.
  30. ^ Sommerfeldt, Nando (3 January 2020). "Nur 19 Autos im November zugelassen – Mercedes' elektrischer Hoffnungsträger floppt". Die Welt.
  31. ^ "ZF Completes WABCO Acquisition" (Press release). Friedrichshafen, Germany: ZF Friedrichshafen AG. 29 May 2020. Retrieved 4 August 2020 – via PR Newswire.
  32. ^ product overview Archived 28 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine official website, 2010
  33. ^ AS Tronic Archived 10 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine pdf, May 2010
  34. ^ "ZF rebrands its Passive Safety Systems division to ZF LIFETEC" (Press release). Friedrichshafen, Germany: ZF Friedrichshafen AG. 25 March 2024.
  35. ^ locations worldwide Archived 5 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine official website, 2010
  36. ^ "ZF worldwide: North America". ZF Friedrichshafen AG. 6 July 2010. Archived from the original on 6 July 2010. official website, 2010

External links[edit]