Auto supplier ZF launches $62M expansion in suburban Detroit

Auto supplier ZF launches $62M expansion in suburban Detroit to boost R&D for airbag and safety systems 🚗🔧 #AutoIndustry #Innovation

ZF North America Inc. is working on a $62 million expansion in Macomb County, Mich., where the automotive supplier is building out its international R&D base for airbag, seatbelt and steering wheel systems.

ZF LIFETEC, the company’s passive safety systems division, is constructing an 82,000-square-foot building on its 30-acre site in Washington Township, which will house an 8 meganewton Intron crash test sled — one of just a few in operation around the world, ZF told the township in its site plan application.

Additionally, the company’s existing 136,000-square-foot and 120,000-square-foot buildings will be renovated. The project began in October and is scheduled to be complete in March, according to planning documents.

Company spokeswoman Dawn Swindle said the expansion will allow the company to consolidate “prototype, engineering, state of art testing services and support functions” for ZF LIFETEC, a unit of Germany-based ZF Group, which is among the world’s largest auto suppliers.

“The planned expansion in Washington Township will enable the space needed for continued collaboration, innovation and the testing required to enable the highest product quality,” Swindle said in an email. “ZF LIFETEC is pioneering automotive safety and this investment in our people, customers and the community will positively position us in this growing sector.”

As part of the project, the company plans to transfer 100 employees from a plant in Romeo to the campus in nearby Washington Township. The expansion will allow for the retention of 400 jobs and creation of about 25 jobs, the company told the township.

“ZF’s additional investment in Washington Township involves a very stringent competitive internal process to determine the best site for additional investment,” the site plan application said. “The selection of Washington Township over Monterey, Mexico, and Mason, Ariz., avoided the transfer and loss of over 600 jobs from Michigan.”

It is unclear if incentives will be sought. Crain’s inquired with the company about any incentives it might be seeking to support the expansion.

The cost of renovations to existing buildings is estimated at $13.2 million, while the new building will run $48.4 million, including $14 million of machinery and equipment, according to a project cost breakdown.

ZF, which reported sales of nearly $50 billion last year, has 168,700 employees worldwide. It has its Active Safety division based in Livonia and its Electronics and Advanced Driver Assist Systems division in Farmington Hills.

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