ZF, which was founded as Zahnradfabrik GmbH in 1915, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
In September 1915, Zahnradfabrik GmbH appeared for the first time in a trade register. Now its global network consists of 71,600 employees at 122 locations. All will take part in anniversary activities.
ZF is making the largest acquisition in the company's history. With the purchase of the U.S. company TRW Automotive, ZF will join the top three in the global automotive supplier industry.
The company’s founding at Lake Constance 100 years ago had its origins in Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH, which was based there at the time and which was also a shareholding partner of Zahnradfabrik.
The task of the newly founded company was to develop, test, and manufacture "gears and transmissions for aircraft, motor vehicles and motorboats.”
Only a few years later, ZF offered its technology to automotive manufacturers and became an important transmission supplier of this still young German industry. Steering systems for automobiles and commercial vehicles were added in the 1930s, as well as drive units for field tractors. However, before and during World War II, armament production dominated the three German ZF locations. ZF also employed forced laborers in all plants. By the end of the war, their number rose to 2,800.
ZF began to produce civilian products in 1946, starting with field tractor transmissions and commercial vehicle transmissions. The company entered new market segments, such as volume production of the first multi-ratio transmission for passenger cars in 1965.
ZF expanded its international presence with a production location in Brazil in 1958 and began producing with its own locations in the United States in 1979 and China in 1993.
In 1984 the company purchased the Lemförder Group, entering the worldwide business of chassis components, and later chassis systems for passenger cars and commercial vehicles.
Today's ZF portfolio includes driveline and chassis technology products such as transmissions, driveline and chassis components, as well as complete axle systems and modules. ZF technology is used in passenger cars, commercial vehicles, construction and agricultural machinery, rail vehicles and marine applications. The company also focuses on the wind power and electronic components business.
"ZF's history is an example of how to exploit entrepreneurial opportunities together," ZF CEO Stefan Sommer said in a statement. "All ZF employees can be proud of this — from the development as well as the production departments, from the domestic company parts that have always been a part of ZF or from a part that joined ZF later."
ZF said its employees should have reason to celebrate the anniversary year at all current locations around the world: ZF employees can share their own opinions on the anniversary year via an anniversary portal and exchange views. Family Days at the larger locations around the world will include family members of the 71,600 employees in the festivities. A traveling exhibition will get to the heart of ZF's history.
On July 4 an anniversary festival will take place in front of the Zeppelin hangar in Friedrichshafen. All employees will be admitted free to performances by the hip-hop band Die Fantastischen Vier and former Reamonn frontman Rea Garvey.
The main ceremony in Friedrichshafen will take place on Sept. 9, the day of the company's entry into the trade register at the Tettnang district court exactly 100 years ago.
In the long term, the new corporate headquarters at the Friedrichshafen location will provide space for permanent exhibits, as well as exhibits with periodically changing themes. Access to these exhibits will be open to residents and interested parties alike.