Holger Klein, CEO of ZF Friedrichshafen, does not see the success of Chinese car manufacturers in Europe as a threat. There is a lot of ZF technology in vehicles from China: "If you look at the cars that will come from China in the future, from manufacturers such as BYD, Nio or Geely, you will find a lot of ZF components such as shock absorbers, steering systems or brakes," says Klein in an interview with the media of Autoren-Union Mobilität.
"We are a globally positioned company and generate 50 percent of our sales at our plants in China with local customers, i.e. Chinese car manufacturers." In China, ZF has its first customer for steer-by-wire with car manufacturer Nio. The electronic steering system does not require a rigid steering column, enables automated driving and helps to avoid accidents. According to Klein, this technology, which was also developed in Germany, is coming back here via China.
ZF Friedrichshafen is the world's third-largest automotive supplier. Klein is currently preparing the company for the electric future, which will also involve job cuts. The plant in Saarbrücken, where automatic transmissions for combustion engines and plug-in hybrids (PHEV) are manufactured, is facing deep cuts. Even though the combination of battery drive and combustion engine, which has almost been written off in Germany, is currently finding more and more customers worldwide. "PHEVs are particularly popular in China. In the first nine months of the year, demand rose by over 80 percent to 1.5 million vehicles," says Klein. In the Netherlands, too, sales are currently up by around 50 percent.
Nevertheless, ZF is continuing its conversion to purely electric drives. Because, according to Klein, "the battery-electric car will be the norm. That is why we at ZF have embraced this transformation and greatly reduced our dependence on the combustion engine - from 60 percent in 2015 to currently only around 30 percent." However, the PHEV is certainly justified as a bridging technology. In Europe, both drive systems will be produced in parallel until the end of the combustion engine in 2035. Klein: "In the rest of the world, the date is still open. China does not want to be climate-neutral until 2060 and even wants to increase CO2 emissions by 2030."
As the world's largest supplier to the commercial vehicle industry, ZF is also working on making trucks and buses climate-neutral: "When it comes to achieving climate neutrality, the commercial vehicle industry is more open to technology. There is not just the purely battery-electric solution." For buses, which are to be all-electric in Europe by 2035, this is still relatively simple: "They can be charged in the depot in the evening. But for 40-ton trucks on long routes, it's a different ball game. That requires technological diversity." This is why ZF is working on hydrogen drives for trucks, among other things. (aum)
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