The completed deal will turn ZF into an automotive component and system supplier of the same magnitude as Continental and Bosch, and is expected to accelerate further development of driver assistant and autonomous driving systems.
Wabco and ZF worked closely together on the Evasive Maneuver Assist system revealed in 2016, in which Wabco’s braking and stability controls combined with ZF active steering systems to enable trucks to swerve to miss objects that they could not avoid by braking alone.
Other Wabco innovations include the invention of the first air braking system in 1869, when Westinghouse Air Brakes first appeared on railway trains in America. More recently it pioneered ABS, automated control of manual transmissions, electronic air suspension, electronic stability control, and autonomous emergency braking.
ZF can trace its roots back to the dawn of aviation at the turn of the last century. It was originally established to manufacture reduction gears for the engines fitted to Zeppelin airships, and it retains an involvement in lighter-then-air craft to this day: although its major focus is now on automotive transmissions, steering systems, electrical and hybrid drives, axles and suspension.
The Wabco acquisition will enable it to offer a complete running-gear solution to vehicle manufacturers, and it is currently the only supplier of heavy-duty proprietary transmissions to non-integrated European truck manufacturers.
Announcing the takeover, a statement from ZF said: “The planned acquisition is part of ZF’s Next Generation Mobility strategy and will expand the company’s expertise to include commercial vehicle braking solutions for the first time.
“This plays a central role for the control of automated driving functions – including emergency braking manoeuvres of trucks and trailers.
“Following the acquisition, customers of both companies will have a partner in ZF who can offer them a fully integrated system approach, new drive systems for E-Mobility and autonomous driving functions.
“ZF expects that automated driving functions will primarily be implemented for commercial vehicles and in areas with low complexity and traffic (e.g. factory sites, airports, agriculture).
“The combination of both businesses is expected to further accelerate the development of new technologies to enable autonomous commercial vehicle functions, making ZF less dependent on the economic cycle of the passenger car industry.”
Completion of the deal is expected in the next year.