ZF CEO Holger Klein says that brands such as Tesla, Nio, Xpeng and Lucid are pushing the German supplier in a different way than traditional automakers.
"They have a different expectation on speed," he said. "Speed is king."
Therefore, these brands want ZF's newest solutions as quickly as possible, even if some bugs haven't been fully eliminated.
"If your latest innovation feature doesn't work as reliably as you would expect from a German premium brand, it's somehow OK," he told Automotive News Europe during a recent roundtable discussion at the supplier's headquarters in Friedrichshafen, Germany. "This happens when the customer wants a particular car and a particular function and is willing to accept some deficiencies."
While Klein emphasized that ZF won't compromise on its proven development processes or skip quality steps, it knows that the newcomers – and their customers -- will be tolerant.
"I think that makes many of them faster," he said. "It is demanding to keep pace with this speed."
But it can also be rewarding.
Klein said that because the newcomers approach the business differently they sometimes see opportunities where others see failure.
He used ZF's foldable steering wheel as an example. He said when ZF presented it the reaction was harsh.