ZF to concert factory in Saarbrücken to drive production centre

The German automotive supplier ZF will convert its transmission plant in Saarbrücken into a lead location for pure electric drives and has announced that it will invest a three-digit million sum for this purpose. Electric drive production is scheduled to start there in 2024.

For the future production of driveline technology for pure electric vehicles, new production lines are to be installed at the ZF plant in Saarbrücken in 2023, according to the supplier. Series production is then to start in the course of 2024.

It is not clear from the announcement exactly which products will be involved – it only mentions purely electric drive systems. It is not even specified whether it will be e-drives for passenger cars or commercial vehicles – or both. At the IAA Transportation in September, ZF presented the next generation of its CeTrax e-drive for commercial vehicles.

So far, partially electrified drives have already been produced at the transmission plant, which is one of the largest ZF plants worldwide with around 9,000 employees. “With the successful start of production of the new 8-speed automatic transmission, the last hybridisation stage before the pure e-drive, the plant is already well utilised in the medium term due to the high demand,” writes ZF. “In parallel, the production of driveline technology for pure e-vehicles is now being prepared in a targeted manner.”

Employees to contribute financially to the conversion

A package of three elements has been agreed for precisely this expansion. On the one hand, the company itself is planning the unspecified investments in the three-digit million range. Secondly, the workforce at the Saarbrücken site will participate in the change through the site’s own ‘Future Fund’. This future fund is fed by a two-stage reduction in the pay line at the site across all hierarchical levels and “will be used for a specific purpose to invest in the establishment of new technologies”. In other words: personnel costs will be saved for the investments.

And as a third element, the Saarland state government wants to promote the transformation of the plant. “Companies, employees and the state government are setting out together on the road to the automotive future. The Saarland path we are taking together at the Saarbrücken site is a shining example of how structural change can be actively shaped when companies think ahead and have partners capable of action,” says the state’s Minister President Anke Rehlinger. “One of the largest industrial employers in the Saarland is securing its location here today and with it thousands of jobs.”

The company itself speaks of a “milestone in the transformation of the company towards e-mobility” or a “strategic course setting with exemplary character”. “The example of Saarbrücken shows how successfully transformation can be orchestrated in close cooperation between the company, employees and state politics,” says Stephan von Schuckmann, member of the ZF Board of Management and responsible for e-mobility. “Only in this way will we be able to actively shape the changes in value creation and employment and position our locations for the future.”

Mario Kläs, Chairman of the Works Council at the Saarbrücken location, is also satisfied with the agreement: “We have fought for a long time for future products for the location. With these new product settlements, the foundation has been laid for the next generation of mobility at the Saarbrücken site.” However, Kläs also reminds us that further products must be located in Saarbrücken “in order to compensate for the future decline in 8-speed automatic transmissions and thus secure employment”.

The ZF E-Mobility division has its headquarters in Schweinfurt. A new building for administration, sales and research and development was opened there in summer 2019. A development at the Saarbrücken location is not mentioned in the announcement – so that will probably continue to take place in Schweinfurt.

With reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.

zf.com (in German)


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