Stefan Sommer

'Our Honeymoon is Over'

ZF Friedrichshafen CEO Stefan Sommer.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    ZF Friedrichschafen is a multi-national automotive titan. Since acquiring the American aftermarket firm TRW, it is now Germany’s third-largest car industry supplier.

  • Facts


    • ZF hopes to turn over €30 billion this year. Only Bosch and Continental are bigger.
    • Mr. Sommer expects growth in the passenger car market in China of 3 to 5 percent.
    • Cost-cutting efforts already are expected to trim €1 billion in expenses from the combined companies.
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It’s a bit unexpected to find a global corporation on the north banks of Lake Constance, but that is where ZF Friedrichshafen calls home. After purchasing TRW, the U.S.-based aftermarket car parts company, the firm became a giant with sales of about €30 billion ($32.7 billion) this year and 130,000 employees, making it the third-largest German car parts supplier after Stuttgart-based Bosch and Hanover-based Continental.

Chief Executive Officer Stefan Sommer is working to cut labor costs by €60 million in Germany next year while integrating about 65,000 TRW workers. He discussed the task of melding two companies and the impact of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal.


Handelsblatt: Mr. Sommer, how much is ZF feeling the effects of the VW emissions scandal?

Mr. Sommer: Volkswagen is one of our largest customers and, with a couple billions in sales, of tremendous significance. At the moment, our call-off figures are stable, but VW is in the midst of realigning itself. We have to wait to see how things develop. What worries us is the future of the diesel. Without it, the car industry will not meet the coming carbon dioxide goals for climate protection. If current discussions result in customers becoming unsure and buying fewer diesel cars, it would be bad for the whole automotive industry.

How strongly is ZF dependent upon diesel?

On diesel technology, not a cent, but when customers put off buying a car, the result is we deliver fewer steering systems, braking systems or other products.

VW must cut costs significantly. Do you expect increasing price pressure?

The pressure on prices was always high. The scandal won’t do much to significantly change that. Until now, VW has been a very dependable driver of growth for us, everywhere in the world. That justified the price pressure. More deliveries for us means we can take a cut in price.

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