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GlobalCompanyAnnual Report 2020
GlobalCompanyAnnual Report 2020
Next Generation Mobility @ ZF
CompanyAnnual Report 2020

Next Generation Mobility – Accelerating the Transformation

Annual Report 2020

CEO Wolf-Henning Scheider explains in an interview why ZF believes that the strategy has been confirmed in challenging times.

Mr. Scheider, “Next Generation Mobility – Accelerating the Transformation” is the guiding principle of this Annual Report. From your point of view, which aspects of the transformation have been accelerated in this extraordinary year 2020?
We have anticipated the transformation we experience now and have prepared ourselves well for it with our Next Generation Mobility strategy. However, the pandemic has increased the speed. Many countries around the world are renouncing vehicles with combustion engines and implementing regulations that are already influencing the market today. In the aftermath, 2020 will be considered the year of the breakthrough for electromobility, at least in Europe. This has immediate consequences for ZF because we need to accelerate the additional investments in e-mobility technologies, prioritize them even more and also change our structures.
A second aspect, however, is just as important: the change in the world of work and processes due to digitaliztion. Ten years ago, lockdowns would have had a completely different effect and the consequences would have been far more serious.
As a company, we have benefited from the fact that we have been continuously promoting digitalization for years. For this reason, ZF was able to react quickly and flexibly to the pandemic and establish new ways of virtual cooperation – from a technological as well as a human perspective. This indicates our ability to adapt and the commitment of each individual.
“Staying on Course in Difficult Times”
Wolf-Henning Scheider (CEO), Chief Executive Officer of ZF Friedrichshafen AG
Read the complete CEO interview

No one could have foreseen a development like COVID-19. Has the pandemic forced you to change plans – or even the direction?

The future viability of our Next Generation Mobility strategy has never been questioned by the pandemic. On the contrary, we believe it has been confirmed by the social and economic impacts and we are now accelerating even more its implementation.

The guiding principle of the Annual Report is therefore “Accelerating the Transformation.” Our goal remains clean, safe, comfortable and affordable mobility for everyone and everywhere. The transformation in order to achieve this goal is in full swing and has picked up pace in 2020. Since we made the right decisions early on, we are on course today despite all the challenges.

2020 will be considered as the crisis year for the automotive supplier industry. To what extent does this apply to ZF?

ZF also faced unprecedented challenges this year, but we reacted quickly, adapted working methods or made existing processes more efficient thanks to digitalization. In terms of leadership, team spirit, structure, processes or cost optimization, the entire company has learned a lot in a short period of time. The top priority has always been protecting our employees and reliably supplying our customers. ZF’s diversification was helpful in this situation. We are active in construction and agricultural machinery, industrial as well as marine applications and one of the world’s leading companies for wind turbine components.

The localization of technologies and production in important markets, such as China, has also paid off. The pandemic initially had the hardest effect there, but China was quickly able to control the crisis in terms of society and economy. We have benefited from the continued economic upturn in this market since then.

Nevertheless, ZF also had to react adequately to the economic effects. What did the austerity measures look like?

Against the backdrop of the drastic sales decline in the first half of the year, we consistently questioned all expenditures and stopped them wherever possible. Investments were prioritized even more and only made if they paid off for ZF’s future or improved the revenue situation.

We have also used all available tools worldwide to make working hours more flexible. In Germany, we were able to conclude the “Transformation Collective Agreement” with employee representatives and the trade unions and draw on the offer of short-time work. If market developments continue to be inconsistent, we will be able to adjust working time even without short-time work and remain flexible in the future. Compensation and pre-retirement programs negotiated with the works councils were also successful and help us adjust the costs to the weaker demand.

Your R&D figures, however, do not speak for a strict austerity program.

This is true and applies to developments in our four strategic technology fields in particular. In this difficult situation, we continued to drive these fields with strong commitment and only slightly reduced investments. We are thus driving forward the transformation of the company and safeguarding ZF’s longterm future.

For ZF, 2020 was characterized by another development: the acquisition and subsequent integration of WABCO as of May. How great was this challenge?

With the acquisition of WABCO, we were able to close a major strategic gap. We are now well prepared for the market requirements with new products for e-mobility and assistance systems. Moreover, the new division has already contributed positively to our result this year. We call WABCO and ZF a perfect match. As a very successful supplier for trucks, buses and semitrailers, WABCO – or rather the new ZF division – has access to technologies that ZF did not have in its portfolio due to its history. The complementary product ranges and the different customer segments create added value to ZF and its customers.

For the commercial vehicle market as well as for the passenger car business, the increasing networking in the vehicle leads to a change from being a component suppliers to becoming a systems supplier. The acquisition represents a leap forward for ZF’s commercial vehicle business.

ZF sees itself as a driver for clean and affordable mobility. What developments should be highlighted in this area for 2020?

First of all, of course, the fast-moving electrification of the transport sector. We now have a wide range of solutions for this. And as we observe large growth rates in plug-in hybrids, we believe that our early focus on his technology is thus justified.

At the same time, the new business with our all-electric drives developed very positively last year. ZF will also be among the first suppliers to electrify trucks and buses, as we already have corresponding orders.

But electromobility does not only pay off for ZF with regard to drives: With our regenerative braking systems, we significantly increase energy recuperation so that energy for up to 150 kilometers is achieved by the braking system alone.

In addition to the drive, we also supply electric vehicles with innovative solutions for all technology fields that make modern passenger cars attractive: integrated safety concepts, systems for dynamic vehicle control and assistants for automated driving.

Has automated driving rather taken a back seat?

We have made good progress in this technology field as well. Our shuttle systems are used in public transportation via our subsidiary 2getthere, for example in Rotterdam. Further international assignments and two cities in Baden-Württemberg as of 2022 will also make the new technology tangible for many people for the first time – with ZF products.

We are delighted that we were able to win attractive orders for advanced driver assistance systems and semi-automated driving functions. It is particularly noteworthy that the ZF ProAI supercomputer is sought after by manufacturers of commercial vehicles and passenger cars for many millions of vehicles. ZF will be one of the leading providers of central computers in vehicles.

Ultimately, driving dynamics regulation is also about networking. How well is ZF positioned in this area in which software plays a central role?

Networked chassis systems are critical for the autonomous mobility of the future. Our software platform cubiX masters this networking. In order to make the driving experience in autonomous vehicles a pleasant one, the longitudinal and transverse dynamics of the vehicle must first be optimally coordinated. Jolting steering, braking or acceleration processes undermine our confidence in the capabilities of the autonomous driver. cubiX integrates numerous chassis systems such as steering, dampers, brakes and drives and ensures a comfortable driving experience.

Our customers should perceive us as the first contact for such comprehensive system solutions. cubiX is a good example of how we will offer software-based platforms in all technology fields. Together with our customers, we are working on the software-defined vehicle of the future.

In the coming years, numerous automotive manufacturers will strive for carbon-neutral production and will also demand this from their suppliers. How does ZF respond to this task?

We stand behind these goals and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals: ZF is a member of the UN Global Compact and I am a member of the “Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders,” which was initiated as part of the World Economic Forum.

As a company, we aim to be climate-neutral by 2040 – with regard to all four fields of action: direct emissions, indirect emissions, emissions from upstream suppliers and emissions from products. In a first step, we created a corporate carbon footprint that also covers commuting of employees or the use of ZF products, for instance.

What prospects does ZF have? How do you look into the future?

We have many reasons to be confident. I see good opportunities to grow above average with our orders and new products. Above all, however, we have an excellent, very committed team with a great sense of solidarity that has proven its willingness, courage and ability to change and implement new ideas more than ever. We can build on this.

Financial overview 2020

ZF consistently aligns itself to the mobility transformation

In an economically challenging environment, ZF was able to secure substantial customer orders in new technology business sectors. They confirm ZF’s “Next Generation Mobility” strategy and secure future growth. At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic had an impact on ZF’s 2020 business figures. Group sales of €32.6 billion were 11 percent below the prior year’s figure of €36.5 billion. Adjusted EBIT amounted to €1.0 billion (2019: €1.5 billion); the adjusted EBIT margin was 3.2 percent (2019: 4.1 percent). As of December 31, 2020, ZF had a global workforce of 153,522 (2019: 147,797). The increase results from the approximately 12,000 Wabco employees who were integrated into the company at the end of May.

Sales Development by Region

2019 - 2020

*incl. India

Sales Figures by Vehicle Segment

*Construction and agricultural machinery, marine craft, aircraft and wind power

Annual Report 2020

In the Annual Report, you will find important data and facts from the 2020 fiscal year.

Technological Transformation

ZF Remains on Course

Two years ago, ZF presented its Next Generation Mobility corporate strategy, with the objective of offering clean, safe, comfortable and affordable mobility to everyone and everywhere.
The rollout now takes place with production-ready solutions in the four technology fields: electromobility, automated driving, vehicle motion control and integrated safety. Digitalization is the overarching theme and the common enabler. ZF is also accelerating transformation as a developer and provider of software. As a systems supplier, the company is a pacemaker in all core areas of mobility. This is also beneficial for ZF’s non-automotive products – for instance, thanks to strong market growth in the wind power sector outside Europe.
Clean, safe and affordable mobility – with production-ready technology.
Next Generation Mobility Strategy


Electromobility plays a crucial role in today’s and future mobility – especially in the context of automated and autonomous driving of cars and other vehicles.

Autonomous Driving

From technology and testing through to the future: We provide you with an overview of automated and autonomous driving of cars and other vehicles.

Integrated Safety Systems

They help prevent road traffic accidents or at least reduce their severity.

Digitalization and Software

Artificial intelligence is being integrated into more and more products that are networked and given the capacity to learn.

Vehicle Motion Control

The chassis plays a major role in ensuring safety, comfort and efficiency of a vehicle.

Buses: Reduced CO2 Emissions Thanks to AxTrax AVE

The electric portal axle AxTrax AVE with integrated wheel hub drive is the solution for electric buses, hybrid buses and trolleybuses. It enables to solo buses as well as articulated buses full-electric and zero-emission driving.

Flexible Electric Central Drive for Trucks and Buses: CeTrax

Leading truck manufacturers want to phase out the combustion engine by 2040. Until then, the main objective is to reduce CO2 emissions from commercial vehicles. ZF offers system solutions for all commercial vehicle segments and can therefore make a valuable contribution to reducing the carbon footprint. CeTrax is an electric central drive that is equally suitable for buses, delivery trucks and special vehicles. A major advantage of the system is that it is easy to integrate into existing vehicle platforms.

Safe and Comfortable – Automated Coupling Assist

Every accident is one too many, especially when weaker road users encounter heavy commercial vehicles. With the introduction of two world innovations, ZF combined additional safety with efficiency gains in 2020. World premiere no. 1: The Automated Coupling Assist. The fully automated assistance system enables the truck to detect and connect the semitrailer.

Safe Reversing – Advanced Reversing Assist

World premiere no. 2: The Advanced Reversing Assist is an innovative ADAS system that helps prevent collisions with obstacles, pedestrians and other vehicles when reversing.

Driving Autonomously from the Surrounding Area to the City

Self-driving people movers are to make inner-city traffic more efficient and safer in the future. “RABus” started as a trendsetting project in September 2020. One of the key players: ZF and its subsidiary 2getthere.

Learn more about the project >

Safely on Track with ADOPT

ADOPT (Autonomous Driving Open Platform Technology) combines ZF's expertise in autonomous driving with the artificial intelligence in the commercial vehicle world. This simplifies and accelerates applications for automated and autonomous driving.

ZF Wind Turbine Gearboxes Boost the Energy Revolution

One in four wind turbines worldwide features a ZF Wind Power gearbox. With two new milestones in 2020, ZF is giving wind power a new boost. ZF Wind Power and wind turbine manufacturer Vestas have launched a drivetrain on the market that significantly reduces power generation costs. ZF has also expanded its SHIFT gearbox platform for wind turbines.

Find out more about ZF Wind Power

Software Defined Car

With its “middleware,” ZF creates an open software platform for the software-defined vehicle of the future: The platform enables efficient communication between the software functions and the intelligent hardware of the vehicle.


ZF plans to become climate-neutral by 2040. In its sustainability efforts, the company focuses on four levers: products, production, employees and supply chains.

The Perfect Match

ZF has successfully completed the acquisition of WABCO. The result: being the leading global systems supplier for commercial vehicle technology. With the integration of WABCO as of May 2020, ZF was able to significantly expand its product portfolio. With the new constellation, the company is the world’s largest supplier of commercial vehicle technology and made a step forward toward its goal of further increasing safety standards, efficiency, connectivity and intelligence as well as the automation of commercial vehicles.

Our Principles

ZF Way - Winning Together in the Race to Next Generation Mobility

Anticipating trends in mobility, picking up on them and turning ideas into unique products has always been our strength at ZF. However, the speed of change has increased significantly. That is why we are making ourselves fit for the future: with the ZF Way. This is a Group-wide initiative that starts at the most diverse points in the company and is aimed at everyone. Common goals and shared values are key to our lasting success.

Current publications

Annual Report 2020

In the Annual Report, you will find important data and facts from the 2020 fiscal year.

Sustainability Report 2020

What does sustainability mean for ZF? The Sustainability Report provides the answer to this question.