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Happy Birthday, ZF do Brasil!

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Today, ZF is a global player with 146,000 employees at 230 locations in almost 40 countries. The beginnings of the internationalization go back to six decades ago. Back then, the Group took its first steps abroad by opening a plant in Brazil.
Mauro Cassane, October 16, 2018
Mauro Cassane has been a journalist specializing in mobility and in the automotive sector for more than 30 years. He also specializes in corporate communication.
Congratulations, ZF do Brasil! In 1958, 60 years ago, the ZF Group laid the foundation for its internationalization in Brazil. Back then, ZF founded its first plant abroad in the city of São Caetano do Sul in the federal state São Paulo. The conditions were favorable: At that time, the Brazilian government was promoting the national automotive industry. They limited the import of parts and thus created incentives for foreign companies to settle in the country.

Since then, the number of ZF branches and employees in Brazil has steadily grown. Today, the modern plant in Sorocaba in the federal state São Paulo is the center of the Region of South America. Further plants are located in Araraquara, Engenheiro Coelho, Itu, Iracemápolis, Limeira and São Bernardo do Campo. Currently, ZF has around 5,000 employees in Brazil.
Join us on an entertaining journey through six decades. Find out all about the milestones of ZF in Brazil as well as some of the most important events for the country at the respective time.

60 Years of ZF in Brazil


On August 15, 1958, Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen AG, as ZF was known in those days, opened the first plant outside of Germany. Brazil is the country of choice and the location is the city of São Caetano do Sul in the federal state São Paulo. Initially, the plant produces transmissions for the legendary DKW (former German car brand), which was produced under license by the company "Veículos e Máquinas Agrícolas S.A." (Vemag) in Brazil.

What other important things were happening in Brazil? In the same year, the Brazilian national soccer team beat Sweden in the finals in Stockholm and won the world cup for the first time. In Brazil, the whole country is in a buzz.


ZF starts production of the transmission 4DS6-3, which is installed in DKW cars due to its advanced technology. The Brazilians soon take a fancy to these vehicles.


Business continues to grow and production soon needs more space. To extend its product portfolio, ZF takes over the company Quatro Paus. In July of the same year, a further plant is built on the premises in São Caetano do Sul in record time. The production starts out with 400 employees; within six years this number increases to 600.

What other important things were happening in Brazil? In December 1960, one month before President Juscelino Kubitschek's term of office ends, there are already 1,200 supplier plants in Brazil.


This year, ZF celebrates the 25,000th transmission produced in the country for DKW and launches the first transmission for commercial vehicles: the AK655 for Mercedes-Benz trucks. ZF transmissions are well-known for their robustness and reliability.

What other important things were happening in Brazil? From 1958 to 1967, the number of vehicles produced in the country almost quadrupled: from just under 61,000 to over 225,000 vehicles.


ZF delivers Brazil's first power steering for the Chevrolet Opala. This is followed by hydraulic and manual steering systems for Volkswagen's Passat and General Motors' Chevrolet Chevette.

What other important things were happening in Brazil? During the game against Vasco da Gama, the Brazilian soccer star Pelé from FC Santos scores his 1,000th goal in the Maracanã stadium in Rio de Janeiro.


Production of marine reverse transmissions for ships begins at ZF do Brasil. This is the reverse transmission BW-26 up to 120hp.

What other important things were happening in Brazil? The first computer that has been developed by a team at the University of São Paulo and produced in South America is launched on the market.


As a leading innovator, ZF causes a paradigm shift in the commercial vehicles segment by producing power steering gears for trucks and buses. Here, this marks the start of the age of driving comfort.

What other important things were happening in Brazil? In a joint project, the Brazilian and Paraguayan governments build the Itaipu Binacional hydroelectric power plant.


ZF's 20th anniversary in Brazil. At this time, the company already employs 2,250 people.


Covering an area of 692,000 square meters, Plant II opens in São Caetano do Sul on January 15. The progressive transmission ZF-Ecosplit I, 16S-130 for short, is launched on German and Brazilian markets. The Ecosplit transmission's 16 speeds are reached via the formula 2 x 4 x 2 using a splitter group upstream, a 4-speed main transmission and a range-change group downstream.


ZF expands the plant in Sorocaba. The new location produces transmissions for buses, trucks, tractors and harvesters; later, steering axles for tractors and reverse transmissions for ships are added. Thanks to the newly introduced APL axle model range, now more powerful agricultural machinery can be produced in Brazil. This means a quantum leap for the productivity of tractors.

What other important things were happening in Brazil? The music festival Rock in Rio takes place in the Barra da Tijuca quarter in Rio de Janeiro for the first time.



What other important things were happening in Brazil? Formula 1 pilot Ayrton Senna is killed in an accident in Imola, Italy, during the San Marino Grand Prix. Brazil mourns its national hero.


Developed by Brazilian engineers in Sorocaba, the commercial vehicle transmission 16S-1650 enters production.


ZF relocates the entire production of the plant in São Caetano do Sul to Sorocaba.

What other important things were happening in Brazil? Tennis player Gustavo Kuerten reaches first place at the French Open. This makes him the first Brazilian winner of a Grand Slam tournament in men's singles.


ZF Friedrichshafen AG takes over Mannesmann Sachs AG, which from now on is known as ZF Sachs AG. From now on, the two plants in São Bernardo do Campo and Araraquara belong to the department ZF Sachs Powertrain. Here, clutches for commercial vehicles and passenger cars are produced. ZF Lemförder starts production of steering and suspension components in Sorocaba.


In Brazil, the ZF-AS Tronic automatic transmission is installed in the pace truck, which takes part in the truck racing championship Formula Truck. In just four years, ZF Lemförder establishes itself as the market leader for tie rods and suspensions for passenger cars.


Social responsibility also plays an important role at the location in Sorocaba. A team of volunteers renovates the sports club ADC-ZF.

What other important things were happening in Brazil? In 2006, Marcos Pontes is the first Brazilian astronaut to fly to the international space station ISS on board the Soyuz TMA-8.


ZF celebrates half a century's presence in Brazil and opens UniZF for employee qualification. This educational institution lives up to its image of a modern academy. Alongside refresher courses it also offers trainings on new specialized content and qualification measures for young talent.

What other important things were happening in Brazil? The Summer Olympics in Beijing are memorable for two victories for Brazil: Cesar Cielo wins the first gold medal in swimming and Maurren Maggi is the first woman to obtain an individual gold medal in long jump. UNESCO designates the cultural landscape of Rio de Janeiro a World Heritage Site.


Production of the AS Tronic lite automatic transmission for city buses starts in the plant in Sorocaba. ZF proves its environmental awareness by producing solvent-free clutch linings in the plant at São Bernardo do Campo.


ZF starts production of the new ZF-Terrasteer (TSA) steering axle model range for tractors, which is designed for the largest tractor manufacturers in Brazil.


A year full of highlights:

A year full of highlights:

At the plant in Sorocaba, ZF launches a new production line for automatic truck transmissions with 16 speeds as part of the AS Tronic model range.

Due to the high demand, the company decides to produce the MS-B3000 and MT-B3000 axle model ranges, which were developed exclusively for construction equipment, in Brazil as well.

Around the world, ZF celebrates its 100th anniversary and announces the takeover of the U.S. automotive supplier TRW Automotive. By uniting the two companies, the Group becomes one of the world's top three automotive suppliers in its anniversary year. Approximately 130,000 employees generate sales of EUR 30 billion.


The aftermarket organizations "ZF Services" and "TRW Aftermarket" in South America are the first company units to be merged in the course of the integration process and become the "ZF Aftermarket" division. TRW and Varga are merged with ZF, Sachs and Lemförder.

ZF and Mercedes-Benz agree a partnership for the new Mercedes assembly plant in Iracemápolis in the federal state São Paulo. With this cooperation, ZF starts the assembly of chassis, complete front and rear axles as well as driveline systems for C Class and GLA Class Mercedes vehicles.


In February, ZF opens its logistics center for the international aftermarket in Itu in the federal state São Paulo. Here, spare parts logistics are carried out centrally for all plants.


ZF looks back on 60 successful years in Brazil. Congratulations!