Friedrichshafen. One hundred years to the day that the company was entered into the trade register, ZF Friedrichshafen AG celebrated its momentous anniversary. On Wednesday evening, around 1 500 international guests from the automotive industry, business, government, and the community as well as friends and business partners of the company traveled to Lake Constance to attend the gala event at the trade show grounds in Friedrichshafen.
On September 9, 1915, “Zahnradfabrik GmbH,” headquartered in Friedrichshafen, Germany, was entered into the trade register of the Tettnang district court. The aim of the newly founded company was to produce gears and transmissions for aircraft, motor vehicles, and motorboats. It was not long before ZF began offering its technology to automobile manufacturers and advanced to become one of the leading automotive supply companies.
“Even one hundred years after its founding, ZF is still driven by its desire to invent new technologies and perfect existing ones,” said CEO Dr. Stefan Sommer in his speech during the celebration event. “Reliability and innovation represent the general values of our company and are the basis of our actions.” Sommer emphasized that in light of increasing digitalization and networking in automobiles, it is not enough to simply collect components: “Intelligently combining mechanics, electronics, and big data is decisive in developing adequate solutions for the mobility trends of the 21st century. ZF is now very well positioned, as a system supplier, to be a global partner for automobile and commercial vehicle manufacturers. It has the capacity to be a one-stop shop for supplying the right products and technologies.
The trend toward autonomous driving and electromobility will change automobile use and technology more than any other previous developments. “Nevertheless, it will probably still take more than two decades before electromobility achieves a dominating market share,” said Sommer. “Even if we devote all of our effort to developing the electric drive, ZF will also have to look closely at driveline hybridization in order to increase the efficiency of cars and further reduce emissions.” The plug-in hybrid is an important bridge technology from today’s world of the combustion engine into the new world of pure electromobility.
Sommer explained that ZF intends to further bolster the Group-wide technology transfer from the passenger car to commercial vehicles and industrial technology: “In view of our long-term strategy, we want to further expand the non-automotive segment to achieve greater diversification.”
Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), underlined in his speech the importance of the German automotive industry for the German economy. “Cooperation between manufacturers and suppliers is the core reason for the leading technology position that the German automobile industry has established for itself. Our joint goal must be to link innovative value-added structures so that we grow exactly where our markets are growing – and, at the same time, keep Germany as a manufacturing location strong. Because this is where our roots run deep and this is where they will stay. Here, too, is where we intend to shape the future of mobility. To do so, we need a forward-looking framework. Because one thing is clear: competitiveness is neither a static condition nor is it self-sustaining. Legislators must do a better job of addressing the many issues of competitiveness. At present, it will probably not be easy to find political majorities on these issues, but it is absolutely critical,” said Wissmann.
With its expertise and its impressive range of products and services, “ZF Friedrichshafen AG is perfectly positioned to take on future competition”. Also, the future potential of the German automotive supplier industry is huge, emphasized the VDA president. “ZF ranks among the global players. Where there is motion, ZF is there! And as a result of strategic decisions, it has created the necessary conditions for future growth.”
The official celebration ceremony is both the highlight of the anniversary year, which has seen numerous events held for ZF employees. During Family Days at ZF sites worldwide, employee family members had the opportunity to see their loved ones’ work areas and to get a behind-the-scenes view of ZF. These events met with great success on all sides. As part of the anniversary celebrations, ZF also published a new company history; the new technology history will be officially presented in October.