ZF Friedrichshafen AG will expand its newly opened site in South Carolina to enable it to build 1.2 million 8- and 9-speed automatic transmissions by 2016. The German company’s South Carolina plant opened last month and is currently capable of producing 800,000 fuel-saving transmissions annually. ZF plans to spend $215 million to expand the plant, raising its total investment in the site to $600 million.
Company officials said that it is the single, largest outlay ZF has ever made. ZF chief executive Stefan Sommer remarked that by 2016, a total of around 1.4 million square feet will be available “so customers can be adequately served.”
He also remarked that the expansion would also increase the number of employees at the plant from 1,200 to 1,650. Carmakers have been turning to transmissions with more than six speeds to help them boost fuel economy on their vehicles, as they cave in to increasing consumer and regulatory pressure to do such.
ZF supplies 8-speed automatic transmissions to Audi, BMW, Jeep, Jaguar and Land Rover. Its 9-speed automatic gearbox, which ZF claims could improve fuel economy by up to as 16 percent, will be fitted in the new Jeep Cherokee and Land Rover Evoque.
The 8-speed transmission is designed for rear-wheel-drive vehicles while the 9-speed automatic is for vehicles with transverse mounted engines. ZF’s South Carolina plant is expected to build 1.2 million gearboxes annually following once the expansion -- 400,000 8-speeds and 800,000 9-speeds. ZF is also increasing capacity at a German site that produces the 8-speed automatic. The German supplier posted $2.3 billion in sales in 2012. [source: automotive news - sub. required]