Chrysler LLC and ZF Friedrichshafen AG have announced the formation of a new axle manufacturing alliance. The partnership will utilise Chrysler’s new Marysville (Mich.) Axle Plant to build three families of state-of-the-art axles for improved fuel efficiency.

“This partnership gives Chrysler access to advanced axle technologies from a partner that is a leading worldwide supplier of driveline and chassis technology,” said Chrysler LLC President and Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda.

“Advanced axle technologies are key to our powertrain offensive, aimed at improving the fuel efficiency of our products. And working with a partner allows us to reduce development costs and capital investment requirements. In the end, it’s the customer who wins. These axles promise better mileage, better quality and better refinement.”

The program will consolidate the number of axles used on the company’s vehicles for greater economies of scale. Included in the program is a family of front-wheel-drive axles and a family of rear-wheel-drive axles based on proprietary ZF designs and a Chrysler-designed rear-wheel-drive axle.

“This partnership with Chrysler and the UAW further demonstrates ZF’s intention to increase market presence with axles and to use this as a foundation for future explorations with additional customers,” said ZF CEO Hans-Georg Haerter. 

“It gives us the opportunity to bring a key piece of ZF driveline and chassis technology to a large volume of future North American vehicles with a skilled workforce in a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.”

The Chrysler / ZF axle-making partnership, contingent on state and local incentives, ensures the retention of Chrysler employees and anticipates a phased changeover from current Detroit Axle-centred operations. The Marysville facility is currently under construction, on schedule, with a target production launch in early 2010. The 700,000 square-foot plant is expected to produce approximately 500,000 axles a year.

“This partnership will help retain a solid, long-term foundation for UAW workers employed in axle-making operations,” said UAW Vice President General Holiefield. “By partnering with ZF at the new Marysville Axle Plant, our employees may be able to take on additional work — which is good news for expanded employment opportunities.”

The creation of the Chrysler / ZF axle-making partnership will have no negative effect upon any product programs or their timing, Chrysler said.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.