Technology group ZF: Chips are the new gear

With sales up 14 percent to EUR 43.8 billion, EBIT of EUR 2.0 billion (2021: EUR 1.9 billion) and an EBIT margin of 4.7 percent (2021: 5.0 percent) the technology company ZF Friedrichshafen has achieved its forecast despite the crisis. But “even if we made further progress with our strategy in 2022, we cannot be satisfied with this financial result,” explained ZF CEO Dr. Holger Klein presenting the balance sheet on Thursday in Friedrichshafen. Klein has been leading ZF since January 1, 2023.

Klein wants to see more speed in the change: “We have launched a comprehensive performance program with the aim of accelerating processes, simplifying decision-making processes and maintaining cost discipline.” To this end, ZF is developing on the basis of the strategy entitled “Next Generation Mobility”. its corporate structures.

Among other things, ZF plans to merge the two divisions for car chassis technology and active safety technology into a new division for chassis, steering and brake technology that is unique in the market. Klein: “The new division offers all the hardware, software and electronics needed to control the vertical, longitudinal and lateral dynamics of a vehicle.”

In general, Klein wants to set up some business areas more independently so that they can grow faster and operate more successfully on the market. In addition, Klein is open to accepting external investors as partners for attractive areas with good growth potential and high investment requirements. These areas include the passive safety technology division, the conventional car axle business and the business with autonomously driving shuttles.

In all areas, Klein recognizes the company’s efforts towards sustainability and climate neutrality in production and products. As an example, he reports that an international team of ZF engineers has managed to significantly reduce the noise emissions from wind turbine gearboxes for new generations of large turbines with rotor diameters of more than 140 meters. “Our team has thus succeeded in making wind turbines quieter and thus making an important contribution to their social acceptance,” said Holger Klein.

The wind power division is also benefiting from the recently announced cooperation between ZF and the US semiconductor manufacturer Wolfspeed. In its planned factory on the site of a disused coal-fired power plant in Ensdorf in Saarland, silicon carbide semiconductors are to be produced, which will also help to make wind turbines more efficient.

The semiconductors are mainly used in power electronic converters in electric cars. They offer advantages over conventional silicon-based products such as higher efficiency, greater power density and improved reliability. “For us at ZF, the partnership with Wolfspeed is an important step towards a future in which cars will primarily be electric,” said CEO Klein. “Because we are convinced that chips are the new cog.” In e-mobility, the order backlog for electrified drives for passenger cars and commercial vehicles now amounts to more than 30 billion euros.

Based on vehicle production, which has been shrinking since 2019, ZF expects moderate growth in Group sales to more than 45 billion euros in 2023 against the background of the challenges and uncertainties. This revenue growth is expected to lead to an adjusted EBIT margin of between 4.7 and 5.2 percent. (awm)

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