DETROIT -- ZF TRW Automotive, the world’s third-largest producer of airbag inflators, expects to overtake Takata Inc. as the world’s No. 2 supplier as it wins new contracts from Takata’s former customers.
ZF CEO Stefan Sommer told reporters Sunday that the company is expanding global production of inflators and airbags to meet demand.
Two factors are driving the expansion, Sommer said. Industry crash standards are getting tougher all over the world, which is pushing automakers to add airbags.
Secondly, Takata is struggling to replace millions of defective inflators that can explode when airbags deploy. As a result, Takata’s customers are buying replacement inflators from Autoliv Inc., ZF TRW and Daicel Corp., Takata’s three biggest rivals.
Last year, Bloomberg News reported that those three companies will be producing about 68 percent of the inflators used to repair faulty Takata airbags by March.
And those companies are getting more long-term contracts, too. Takata’s biggest customer, Honda Motor Co., announced last year that it would not sign any new contracts to buy Takata’s inflators.
Sommer said ZF TRW is getting some new business from Honda, and also from other Takata customers such as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which said in August that ZF TRW will be a long-term supplier.
Asked whether ZF TRW is expanding capacity to meet demand, Sommer said “Yes -- all over the world. It’s a global effect. We are expanding capacity in our existing plants.”
In other news, Sommer disclosed that ZF TRW’s North American headquarters will be located in Livonia, Mich., where TRW’s headquarters is located.
In turn, the company will convert ZF’s old headquarters in Northville, Mich., into a sales and engineering center. ZF TRW has 1,200 employees in Livonia, while ZF has 400 workers in Northville.
Franz Kleiner, ZF’s board member for North America, will take over as ZF’s North American president and as ZF TRW’s CEO on April 1. He replaces Julio Caspari, who will retire in March after a 40-year career.