ZF Friedrichshafen AG is producing 8-speed and 9-speed automatic transmissions for passenger cars at a new plant South Carolina, a project estimated at about $400 million to date, and reportedly the largest single investment in the company’s history.
The ZF Group designs and manufactures automotive component systems, in particular driveline and chassis products, and already operates several subsidiaries supplying North America’s automotive sector.
ZF Transmissions Gray Court LLC was developed on a 22-acre site about 80 miles northwest of Columbia, SC. Numerous automotive OEMs and suppliers already located in South Carolina influenced the decision to develop the new plant there.
When fully developed by 2016, it’s estimated the investment will reach nearly $600 million. The plant that employs about 1,200 workers now will employ 1,650 by then, and cover about 32 acres.
“This is an important step toward bridging the distance to our customers and having an even better opportunity of accessing North America, an important foreign market for us,” according to ZF CEO Dr. Stefan Sommer.
The plan is to produce about 400,000 8-speed automatic transmissions annually, supplementing the output of ZF’s plant at Saarbrücken, Germany. Also, the new plant will produce 800,000 9-speed transmissions, a new product for the passenger car market. “We are very confident,” Sommer continued, “that in addition to our current customers, Land Rover and Chrysler, other automotive manufacturers will join in and benefit from the advantages of our 9-speed automatic transmission.”
The new transmission was developed for passenger cars with front-transverse engines. ZF indicated it would reduce fuel consumption by up to 16% compared to standard 6-speed automatic transmissions. “Since around three quarters of all passenger cars worldwide are fitted with this drive configuration,” said Sommer, “I see great potential for our new product – especially in North America.”