ZF CEO: TRW acquisition beginning of ‘bright future’

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Livonia — ZF Friedrichshafen AG executives on Wednesday ensured employees of recently acquired TRW Automotive that the companies are moving forward together.

“We’re at the beginning of a very bright future,” ZF CEO Stefan Sommer told roughly 600 employees at TRW’s Livonia headquarters. “The automotive world is waiting for us as a combined company.”

TRW will become a separate business division of ZF called Active & Passive Safety Technology. It will be based in Livonia.

The German auto supplier completed the $12.4 billion acquisition of TRW on Friday. The all-cash purchase was announced in September.

Sommer and Franz Kleiner, a member of the ZF Board of Management, unveiled a new combined ZF-TRW logo for the division Wednesday morning.

“We will go into the future with honest partnership and with the strengths with both of our companies,” Sommer said. “This is depicted in this logo, and with it, of course, strong brand, strong recognition.”

Sommer has continuously said the deal was designed to combine operations, not consolidate.

TRW was attractive to ZF because of its strengths in vehicle technologies, aftermarket reputation and strong balance sheet. The combined companies will have a broad range of technologies to fill growing needs for fuel economy, safety requirements and autonomous driving.

The combined company will have sales of $41 billion annually and more than 130,000 employees, including nearly 5,000 in Michigan — 1,400 at ZF’s North American headquarters and two manufacturing facilities in Lapeer and Marysville; 3,500 at 15 TRW facilities.

“Everybody will be a part of the new ZF,” Kleiner said. “There will be many new chances for everybody.”

TRW makes engine and safety parts such as seat belts and air bags. ZF specializes in transmissions and steering systems, as well as other automotive components. Following acquisition approval, officials say TRW will become a separate business division of ZF, which will remain headquartered in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

ZF provides parts for the automakers around the globe, with the majority of its business in transmissions and chassis systems. The privately-held company has done business in the U.S. since 1979. It operates 12 sites, including an automatic transmission plant in South Carolina that opened last year.

In addition to the Livonia event, employee events will be held at new ZF facilities in Washington and Farmington Hills. Sommer, and former TRW CEO John Plant will be visiting each location celebrating and sharing information about the combined organization.


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