At the ZF Global Technology Day 2024, the technology company and systems supplier turned pace setter for automotive transformation, writes Ashish Bhatia.

With football fever at its peak and the start and end of all conversations in Europe, ZF Group hosted the much anticipated Annual Global Technology Day 2024. In a welcome that was warm inside out, the hot and sultry Summers in Hannover reminded of climate change at an unprecedented pace and the pressures on the automotive industry to play it’s part right. In an insightful presentation, Dr Holger Klein, Chairman of the Board of Management and CEO of ZF, outlined the company’s ambitious mission to spearhead clean, safe, and comfortable mobility. Under the theme “Pacemaker,” ZF is committed to paving the way for customers, leveraging its strengths, and laying the groundwork for a sustainable future through agility and strategic partnerships. “Our partnership with Foxconn is a prime example,” said Dr. Klein in his opening address. “By leveraging their leading electronics capabilities, we are enhancing our chassis modules to meet the evolving demands of the market,” he informed.


Implementation at ZF

This year marks the implementation of several key announcements made previously, notably the integration of passenger car axle business into the broader ZF portfolio. Dr. Klein highlighted the importance of this move, emphasising how the synergy created has fortified ZF’s position in the market. Accelerating Technological Innovation, one of the standout innovations is the QORIX middleware, developed in collaboration with KPIT, which enhances ZF’s Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) capabilities. This middleware serves as a bridge, allowing seamless integration of various technologies across different platforms. The ZF LIFETEC initiative is another cornerstone, showcasing ZF’s commitment to developing life-saving technologies.


EV slowdown

Admitting electrification of passenger cars is slowing down in some markets, “the rise of hybrid vehicles is evident,” Dr. Klein remarked. “Regardless of the propulsion system, our goal remains clear: every gram of CO2 we can avoid is a step towards a cleaner future,” he emphasised.


Flexible manufacturing

Flexible manufacturing for diverse markets involves significant investment in facilities like Gray Court South Calorina and Friedrichschafen Germany. These facilities are designed to accommodate both conventional and fully hybrid drive systems, providing the highest degree of adaptability, particularly in North America. Dr. Klein emphasised that such flexibility is crucial for meeting the diverse needs of global markets. The company’s focus is not just on products but also on showcasing innovation. Dr. Klein stated, “We are convinced that ZF is the most important pace-setter in the industry, helping to push our customers towards transformation.


Unique synergy and global growth

The acquisition of Wabco has been particularly beneficial, creating unique synergy effects and contributing to ZF’s over-proportional growth this year. Dr. Klein noted, “Our strategy of developing once and rolling out everywhere is paying off. The exchange of technology and innovation across segments ensures that all customers benefit.”


CVs and technological advancements

Prof. Dr. Peter Laier, Member of the Board of Management, a key figure in ZF’s commercial vehicle segment, discussed the challenges and opportunities in the market. “Decarbonisation is a major lever, and while implementation varies worldwide, the EU’s clear regulations on BEVs provide a roadmap for us,” said Dr. Laier. He highlighted the importance of maintaining an open approach to technology, ensuring ZF remains adaptable. The company’s investment in flexible manufacturing in locations like Gray Court, South Carolina, and Friedrichshafen, Germany demonstrates this commitment, he reiterated.

ZF’s advanced chassis solutions and x-by-wire technology are pivotal to the company’s strategy. Prof. Dr. Laier explained, “X-by-wire technology, which we first implemented in off-highway systems in 2017, is now central to our offerings. It allows for greater control and safety, particularly in challenging conditions. “Innovation and AI integration, and digitalisation are integral to ZF’s growth strategy. Prof. Dr Laier noted, “AI can lead to exponential growth, achieving gains of 15-40 per cent based on the application. By automating less intelligent tasks, we can make jobs more attractive and efficient. “ZF’s commitment to innovation extends to its customer interactions, with AI-driven services and processes enhancing the aftermarket experience,” he stated. “Data is the gold of the future,” said Prof. Dr. Laier, emphasising the importance of data in driving efficiency and growth.

Strategy realignment

As ZF realigns its strategies starting in 2024, the focus remains on fulfilling general safety requirements and enhancing vehicle autonomy. Prof. Dr. Laier concluded, “Our goal is to make traffic safer and more secure, leveraging our innovations to benefit all segments and customers.” ZF Group showcased it’s innovation and market ready solutions across focus areas: Vehicle Motion Control, Decarbonisation, Safety and Digitalisation at the expanded Jeversen test track built to enhance commercial vehicle testing capabilities in line with the market forces in a compliance driven environment. As we called it a day, the winds picked up with a thick cloud cover bringing in a spell of showers reminding of German climatic conditions we know so well. We saw it all in a day’s work!


Watch out for more in-depth analysis and information coming your way.


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