Supplier ZF Friedrichshafen said it will expand a plant in the US which in June started production of 8- and 9-speed automatic transmissions.
The company will invest $215 million to expand the plant, increasing output by 50% from 800, 000 units annually, reaching a total investment in the facility of $600 million. This would be the largest investment ZF has ever made.
“We will be increasing the existing footprint by almost half,” said ZF CEO Stefan Sommer. “By 2016, a total of around 1.4 million square feet will be available so customers can be adequately served; consequently, the number of employees is expected to increase from 1,200 to 1,650.”
Automakers have already begun to turn to transmissions with more than six speeds, in an attempt to boost fuel economy. ZF already has contracts with BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover and Jeep for its 8-speed automatic and its 9-speed automatic transmission, the first in the world, will be used for the new Land Rover Evoque and the new Jeep Cherokee. ZF claims that the 9-speed improves fuel economy by 16%.
The plant located in South Carolina is expected to build 1.2 million units annually after the expansion will be finished in 2016, which includes 800,000 9-speeds and 400,000 8-speeds. The company also said it is increasing capacity at a German plant which manufactures 8-speed automatic.