ZF Friedrichshafen says its interest in General Motors’ Strasbourg transmission plant in Eastern France, is fuelled by a need to significantly ramp up capacity.

The German driveline and chassis technology supplier is engaged in a fierce battle with Punch International for the transmissions site, which GM is looking to offload, but ZF says it is keen to add major capacity as it looks to address growing demand to meet a projected EUR20bn turnover by 2015.

“We need to ramp up a lot of capacity in Europe,” ZF Friedrichshafen CEO, Stefan Sommer, told just-auto on the sideline’s of this year’s Aftermarket Conference organised by supplier representative body, CLEPA, in Brussels.

“We are interested in utilising transmission capacity – we need to ramp up our volume mainly for our 8-speed transmission and it is very attractive to use that [Strasbourg] capacity.”

Should ZF win the race to secure Strasbourg, it would adopt a hands-off approach to labour relations, Sommer said, preferring a partner to oversee personnel issues at the French site, which employs 1,000 staff. 

The ZF Friedrichshafen chief preferred to concentrate on the potential volumes Strasbourg could bring to his business, which is posting some remarkable numbers.

“We could provide a future for this plant with our volumes,” said Sommer. “We are facing strong growth of these transmissions and are looking for partners who can work with us.

“We will still be responsible for product quality and our processes. I can’t tell you any of those [bid] details as it is not really finished – we are very interested to find some solutions in this.”

ZF Friedrichshafen is predicting powerful growth to become a EUR20bn company by 2015 and seems relatively unfazed by the turmoil currently ravaging Europe, particularly Mediterranean countries.

“We are not too much dependent on current economic development, whether it is Southern Europe or something like this,” said Sommer. “It is structural growth like new customers, for example [with] our 9-speed transmissions.

“We have a lot of customers who will use our products in the next few years.”

GM is not disclosing a price for its Strasbourg operation or a timetable for its sale.

Punch – headed by a Belgian investor – has previously expressed an interest in the plant.