DETROIT — The $12.4 billion acquisition of TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. by Germany's ZF Friedrichshafen AG has many in metro Detroit afraid.
Competitors are fearful of the combined entities size — hopscotching to the third largest global supplier behind Robert Bosch GmbH and Denso Corp.
Locally, it's the realization that business changes under a new owner. Daimler is still a four letter word in metro Detroit after its dealings with Chrysler. Plant closings, job losses and management structure are always on the table in a deal of this scope.
But ZF CEO Stefan Sommer told me in a Monday meeting at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit that those worries are for naught. “I don't see any overlap [in operations],” Sommer said. “We need all the plants, all the distribution channels.”
Sommer said everything — from financial targets to bonus structure — will likely stay the same under ZF, as TRW already shares many similarities with the German parent. TRW CEO John Plant will continue to assist in the closing the deal, expected in the first half of 2015, and will remain with the company following the deal. Sommer didn't reveal whether how long Plant will stay with the new entity.
Sommer said ZF focused on TRW as a target because of its position among the current megatrend of autonomous driving. TRW manufacturers advanced safety systems, which aid in cars driving themselves.
"We want to have TRW on the forefront of technology and support the brand,” Sommer said. “When we bring the technology together (between ZF and TRW), we'll focus on new investment."
Sommer said the first investments made with TRW will be in engineering and capacity in North America and China.
Jobs are safe at TRW, according to Sommer. More jobs are even likely on the horizon, so employees can take a deep breath for the first time since the deal was announced in in September.
This appeared in Dustin Walsh's Shifting Gears blog, on CrainsDetroit.com.