TRW Automotive — which produces the lion’s share of safety-related parts for most cars for sale here in the United States — has just sold to ZF Friedrichshafen, which is mostly known for transmissions in European cars. It creates the world’s largest auto parts supplier, in a deal worth $13.5 billion.
According to the New York Times Dealbook, the companies will combine into a company with $41 billion in sales and 138,000 employees worldwide. Expectations are that TRW will operate as a separate division of ZF.
ZF is based in Friedrichshafen, Germany. TRW Automotive is headquartered in Livona, Michigan.
“The acquisition of TRW fits perfectly into our long-term strategy,” Stefan Sommer, the ZF chief executive, said in a news release. “We are strengthening our future prospects by enlarging our product portfolio with acknowledged technologies in the most attractive segments.”
The transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in the first half of 2015.
TRW Automotive on its own is one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, providing advanced steering, braking and suspension components to 40 major vehicle manufacturers and 250 brands. TRW Automotive reinvented itself during the advent of airbags, and it also provides seat belts and steering wheels to the auto industry. TRW has over 60,000 employees working in more than 185 locations in every vehicle-producing region worldwide.
ZF was founded in 1915 by Ferdinand von Zeppelin solely to produce gears for the Zeppelins and other airships. Following the Treaty of Versaille, ZF moved into automotive production. Among its innovations were the first fully synchronized manual transmission in 1953, and the introduction of the ZF 3HP20, an automatic transmission designed to be fully swappable with a manual, thus reducing the cost required to offer both options to customers.
The ZF 8HP was one of the first eight-speed automatic transmissions and appears in cars like the Jaguar F-Type. The ZF 9HP, nine-speed automatic made its debut in a Land Rover at the 2013 Geneva Auto Show, and is currently appearing in the Jeep Cherokee. ZF opened its first U.S. production facility in 2013.