ZF Friedrichshafen AG has opened a new plant for automatic passenger car transmissions in the US. Located in South Carolina, ZF Transmissions Gray Court, LLC, is the manufacturing site of the company’s 8-speed automatic transmission as well as the world’s first 9-speed automatic transmission.
“We are honoured to present the US home of the automatic transmission,” stated Dr Stefan Sommer, ZF Chief Executive Officer, at the official plant opening in Gray Court. “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.”
Around 1.2 million transmissions are expected to be produced at the plant annually, some 400,000 8-speed and 800,000 9-speed automatic transmissions.
So far, ZF has invested around EUR 300 million in building the new location, which is around 130 km north-west of Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. However, a total of investment of approximately €450 million is planned for the new site. “It is the largest single investment in the almost century long history of ZF,” stated Dr Konstantin Sauer, ZF Board Member responsible for finance and the North American region.
“We will be increasing the existing footprint by almost half,” announced Sommer at the site opening. The footprint of the site totals 90,000 m2, however further expansion will see the site reach 130,000 m2 by 2016. The number of employees is also expected to increase from 1,200 to 1,650.
“We are very confident 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,” stated Sommer.
The new transmission is specially designed for passenger cars with front-transverse engines and saves around 16% in fuel consumption compared to today’s standard 6-speed automatic transmission. “Since around three quarters of all passenger cars worldwide are fitted with this drive configuration I see great potential for our new product – especially in North America,” added Sommer.