ZF in North America A Long Tradition
For more than 35 years, ZF has been active in North America - today, the technology company is present with 16 production locations in the US and with 6 in Mexico.
It was 1979. Jimmy Carter was the 39th President of the United State of America. José López Portillo was the leader of Mexico. A gallon of gasoline was only 86 cents. The average price of a home in the U.S. was $13,650. Disco was dominating the singles charts and many rock stars, such as Blondie, Kiss and Rod Stewart, were emerging with disco-style hits. And a German automotive company was about to hit the shores of the U.S.
In 1979, ZF sales figures exceeded 2 billion Deutschmarks for the first time ever, and boasted a workforce of more than 23,000 worldwide. The company was in a period of tremendous growth and looking to expand elsewhere in the world. ZF Norge was established in Norway; through an acquisition of AS Transmissions and Steering (Pty.) Ltd., a presence in Africa was established for the first time; and 64 years after Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin founded Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen in Friedrichshafen, Germany, the company made a firm commitment to North America. Recognizing the vast potential of the market and the importance of flexibility and proximity to customers, the company founded the wholly-owned subsidiary “ZF of North America Inc.” and began operations on May 1 in Northbrook, Ill., just outside of Chicago.
A lot has happened in 35 years—the region went from one facility to today, operating 16 production locations in the U.S. and six facilities in Mexico. North America has become one of ZF’s most important markets; since 2009 alone, ZF has more than tripled its sales in North America. At the end of the first half of 2013, ZF had approximately 6,800 employees in North America.
Milestones: Production in North America
ZF signed a long-term supply contract with Ford USA and delivered more than 100 000 S 5-42 transmissions per year, the smallest transmission of the new ZF-Ecolite family then.
Chevrolet's new Corvette was equipped with the manual S 6-40 6-speed transmission. This transmission enabled fast and precise gear changes and was developed for cars in the high-performance sector.
After a construction time of two years, the new plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, started production of preassembled and complete front and rear axles for the new Mercedes M-Class. In Duncan, South Carolina, ZF produced the front axles for the BMW Z3.
ZF inaugurated its new technology center in Northville, Michigan. 150 employees started to work on innovations and to adapt products to the American market.
ZF Transmissions Gray Court was inaugurated and started production of 8 and 9-speed automatic transmissions. In June, ZF celebrated the opening of the third US plant in Gainesville, Georgia. Here, clutches and drive components for trucks are produced with the special attribute "Made in America".
A journey through time to 1979
On May 1, 1979, the wholly-owned subsidiary "ZF of North America Inc." headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois started operating and ZF's activities in the North American market were intensified. Find out what else happened in 1979 and what the most popular chart hits were.
March: VW launched the first Golf convertible on the market.
May: Margaret Thatcher was the first woman to become Prime Minister of Great Britain.
July: Sony launched the first Walkman on the market for 200 dollars and KISS was in the top ten of German charts for 16 weeks with "I was made for loving you".
August: "My Sharona" by The Knack hit the top of the American Billboard chart and defended its position until October 5.
October: Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in the struggle against poverty and distress.
November: Pink Floyd released the multi-award winning album “The Wall” with the top selling single “Another Brick in the Wall” - it hit #1 in the U.S. and #3 in the United Kingdom.
December: Gold hit a record high of $462.50 an ounce. Two Montreal journalists got together to play a game of Scrabble, when their banter turned creative, they invented a trivia game that would make them millionaires - Trivial Pursuit.