Following approval by all antitrust authorities, ZF Friedrichshafen AG completed the acquisition of TRW with the "closing" on May 15, 2015. Since then, TRW is being managed as the fifth division within ZF. A key aspect of the integration process is that regular business with customers will continue without disruption. Several expert teams are working in parallel on the long-term synchronization of all corporate processes – from Purchasing to the Aftermarket business. The R&D Department also aims to quickly realize the vast innovation potential of the two companies, laying the foundations for future trailblazing products from the new ZF. Central strategic goals here are efficiency, safety, and automated driving.
"There's a clear objective behind the integration of TRW into ZF: as one of the world's leading suppliers, we aim to offer the automotive industry complete system solutions for the megatrends of the future," explains Dr. Stefan Sommer, Chief Executive Officer of ZF. In terms of figures alone, the combined company has a huge potential: It operates at around 230 locations in some 40 countries, and almost every automotive manufacturer worldwide is on its books. In 2014, 134,000 employees generated combined sales of more than EUR 30 billion. The joint product and technology portfolio covers a wide range and, looking at passenger cars, unites driveline and chassis technology with active and passive safety systems. Now ZF can supply almost everything for the future trend of fully automated driving from one source – from automatic transmissions and axle drives through active chassis systems to advanced driver assistance systems including camera and radar systems, steering, electric steering and software, and vehicle control systems.
Integration and new product diversity
The integration of TRW into ZF will not come at the cost of the formerly independent enterprise's dynamism and customer relationships. This is another reason why TRW will initially operate as the fifth division in ZF, while the TRW brand name will be retained. Simultaneously, ZF will prepare the ground for future products that will enable it to achieve its target of generating additional customer value with complete systems from one source. "The pooling of our R&D capacities will enable us to develop groundbreaking technologies," says Dr. Sommer. This is not restricted to the future trend of automated driving, for which the enlarged ZF company can already offer a whole range of assistance systems. This includes, for example, a Highway Driving Assist or a Parking Assist system, which could make parking easier in the future. ZF will also improve sensors and actuators to further increase the maturity level of today's systems that are already suitable for production.
Looking at efficiency, the competencies brought together here also complement each other, as shown in the development of hybrid or purely electric drives. In the future, the now larger ZF will profit from the expertise of its new division in brake technology, for instance in regenerative braking. Another strategic objective is safety, and here again new departures are possible thanks to the great scope of ZF, which will continue to invest around five percent of its sales in research and development. Now, ZF will be able to offer solutions that connect the steering, active chassis, and stability program systems. This will significantly increase the safety of current stability systems that are usually controlled by braking alone. Similarly, ZF could upgrade its competencies in sensor technology and active damping systems to develop predictive chassis damping.
With the Smart Urban Vehicle, ZF is demonstrating the potential inherent in intelligently networking individual chassis/driveline and driver assistance systems, and is presenting an exemplary solution for urban individual transport in the compact and subcompact segments. The all-electric rear-axle drive eTB (electric Twist Beam), which is mounted close to the wheel, lies at the heart of the vehicle concept. This drive enables the basic layout of the Smart Urban Vehicle to be redesigned. The front axle is also highly innovative, with steering angles of up to 75 degrees enormously increasing the agility and maneuverability of the prototype. Two semi-automated driver assistance functions provide additional comfort/convenience as well as safety and efficiency: Smart Parking Assist maneuvers the vehicle into virtually any small parking space – remote-controlled at the push of a button using mobile devices such as a smartphone or smartwatch. Comfortable, efficient motoring is possible with the concept vehicle thanks to the cloud-based PreVision Cloud Assist assistance function. Where necessary, the system reduces the drive torque, for instance, in good time before entering the bend and thus throttles back the speed without any mechanical braking. The driver is also in direct contact with the Smart Urban Vehicle via the steering wheel: The hands-on detection function covers the entire steering wheel and thus forms the basis for assistance and automated driving functions. An OLED display in the driver's direct field of view provides the driver with additional information.