Using the example of the construction of a demo car in India, ZF shows how worldwide knowhow transfer leads to customized solutions that meet local market requirements.
November 22, 2018
Alexander Hägele Vice President Car Chassis Technology Development
At ZF, we are working jointly across different sites, divisions, and even continents, continuously transferring knowhow from locations around the world, fostering a strong global network. This transfer allows us to benefit from each other’s experiences and individual knowledge and helps realize projects with our colleagues from all over the world.
To my mind, cooperating and sharing knowhow in a global network is a key for ZF in facing the challenges of the local market requirements and in creating tailored solutions for our customers.
The mSTARS demo vehicle, realized and led by our Indian engineers, is a perfect piece of evidence for successful global teamwork and engineering competence within ZF and for localizing an existing product to specific market demands. Experts from China, Germany, Turkey and America supported the team in India, and together, we created the demo car with high-end technology in only eight months. The crew in India consisted of only six people from the Chassis Systems business unit. These colleagues were crucial for the understanding of the specific market demands. Due to the customized design, we also had to gather knowhow in the domains of design engineering, analysis and vehicle tuning.
The Indian SUV with the built-in mSTARS axle.
Since SUVs are a dominant segment in the Indian market, we chose one of the most popular models manufactured by one of the leading Indian OEMs. As its usage profile differs between drivers in the rural and urban environment, the requirements of the Indian market needs to be cost sensitive, while achieving a good balance between ride and handling. At the same time, we needed a suspension architecture that is light weight, adaptable to other vehicles in the same segment and also future-proof, allowing easier integration of e-drives and mechatronic systems. Thus, ZF’s Modular Semi-Trailing Arm Rear Suspension – in short mSTARS – has quickly become our natural choice to start from. The special characteristic of mSTARS is its modularity. Depending on the individual project’s requests, a relatively simple basic axle can be extended to an electric or a standard powertrain module and optionally even be equipped with our AKC rear-axle steering system. Only minor modifications to the car body are required for installing the system into vehicles in lieu of the so far existing, conventional axles.
For our Indian colleagues, this was the first instance of cooperating with global teams to build a demo car. Surprisingly, it turned out to work even better than we had expected and was a great experience and achievement for everybody involved in this global project, realized in India. Gathering global knowhow enabled us to build the demo car in only six to eight month after the decision was made in December 2017 – for fabricating the vehicle and manufacturing the proto parts plus two months for tuning. This is something we are proud of. Looking back, we still can’t believe how it all happened. We just set a goal and went for it – overcoming many challenges such as relying on suppliers and sometimes not receiving the parts we needed, in time.
Part of the proud global ZF team in front of their demo car.
Now, ZF India has a popular local SUV with an advanced chassis solution and light weight suspension that is tangible for OEMs and industry experts, providing a glimpse of the future. This was the AKC system and today, I can say it actually happened.
Taking a global approach to this project has opened up many possibilities. Our department engineering chassis solutions has also reached the mode of functioning, where global teams work on solutions catered for a specific market and user profile.