ZF Friedrichshafen AG’s acquisition of the former TRW Automotive was concluded just over a year ago with the official closing on May 15, 2015. The newly expanded ZF company has gained valuable expertise and has since increased its market presence and become an automotive powerhouse to be reckoned with. The integration slogan – “The Power of 2” – has proven to be a guiding force in combining the two companies' fields of expertise, creating an exponential increase in several areas which represents more than just the sum of their parts.
ZF has already demonstrated its capacity for innovation with several concept vehicles such as the Advanced Urban Vehicle launched in July 2015. A new Innovation Truck has also been developed this year which showcases interesting vehicle design approaches that focus on safety, efficiency and autonomous driving within the commercial vehicle market. ZF also uses these concept vehicles to demonstrate the benefits of an integrated system where sensors, electronics and actuators interact with one another. The terminology “See – Think – Act” captures this broader range of expertise within ZF.
At the beginning of 2016, ZF announced its financial results for the first time following the acquisition of TRW – showing how, with total sales reaching an unprecedented €29.2 billion in 2015, the company is competing in a new league. ZF TRW, the new Active & Passive Safety Technology Division of ZF, contributed considerably to this unrivalled growth, posting sales of €8.9 billion (equates to sales since the completion of the acquisition in May 2015). The company's regional distribution of sales also proved more balanced as a result of stronger market presence. Sales in North America increased from 20 to 28 percent while in Europe sales fell from 56 to 47 percent. In the Asia-Pacific region, ZF sales totaled 22 percent compared to 20 percent in 2014.
Additionally, ZF reduced its debt load by €1.4 billion last year which was considerably more than expected. Standard & Poor’s recently acknowledged this fact by raising ZF’s credit rating to BB+ and giving it a stable outlook. The company's debt reduction actions have therefore considerably improved its financial risk profile.
Integration pays off with passenger car and commercial vehicle design concepts
At IAA 2015, ZF unveiled the Advanced Urban Vehicle, demonstrating the successful results of its initial systems integration activities. This purely electric powered microcar signifies the potential of intelligently networked chassis/driveline and driver assistance systems. Throughout this process, ZF TRW enhanced the expertise of the already existing ZF divisions, which was demonstrated again in February 2016 with a mainstream prototype steering vehicle. Presented at the company winter test track in Northern Sweden, the vehicle combines ZF's Active Kinematics Control (AKC) rear axle steering with ZF TRW's Electrically Powered Steering Dual Pinion (EPS DP) system on the front axle.
One year after the acquisition, the capabilities of the two former companies' complimentary product portfolios are also being leveraged in the commercial vehicle market using the ZF Innovation Truck 2016. ZF has equipped this concept vehicle with a range of functions – anticipating an important role in the future of logistics, freight transport and road traffic safety. These functions include automated maneuvering functions, highway driving assist as well as brake assist and assisted emergency steering. To deliver these innovative functions, ZF engineers combined ZF TRW's sensors, electronics and steering systems with driveline and chassis technology from ZF's Commercial Vehicle Technology Division, to create an intelligent control network. This helps commercial vehicles to operate more safely and efficiently while drivers and employees in the depot should find processes more convenient and straightforward.
“See – Think – Act” – a unique selling proposition
“The acquisition of TRW allows ZF to cover all key aspects of automated driving, enabling vehicles to see, think and act,” says ZF CEO Dr. Stefan Sommer, while describing the unique selling proposition of the technology company. ZF supplies sensor systems and intelligent control units which can help identify and assess a potentially dangerous situation, and mechatronics chassis actuators such as steering and braking systems which can help to avoid or mitigate an accident.
The driver's level of attention must be continuously monitored in automated driving scenarios. To demonstrate ZF's understanding of this key element, the company recently impressed industry experts with its innovative approach to a fully fledged human machine interface. ZF is well-positioned to play a key role in supplying the right technology as automated driving penetrates the market across all vehicle segments – including passenger cars, commercial vehicles, agricultural and construction machinery.