ZF takes the plunge into software business

Jessica Thompson

ZF Group is rolling out its first pure software product, as the world’s third-largest parts supplier looks to establish itself as a major player in the fast-growing market for automotive software.

The product, called CubiX, controls all of a vehicle’s chassis functions, including braking, front- and rear-axle steering, active roll stabilization and electric drive. By doing so, the software can ensure smoother acceleration and more precise steering, the supplier said in a news release.

CubiX makes its debut in the Lotus Eletre, the full-electric crossover developed by the U.K. sports car brand. ZF expects to place CubiX in other vehicles this year, the company said.

The debut of the software is an important one for ZF. The German supplier of transmissions, chassis products and other traditional auto parts is looking to gain a significant share of the growing market. The importance of auto software is accelerating as automakers debut dozens of electric models and introduce vehicles with increasingly advanced driver-assistance systems, and as connected-vehicle technology develops.

The launch is a “significant proof point” for ZF as it looks to transform itself and become a major supplier in the electric vehicle- and software-dominated auto industry of the future, said ZF spokeswoman Ann Miller.

“We are expecting software to be a substantial part of our business going forward,” she said in an email to Automotive News. “We are taking our deep expertise in hardware and blending it with software to offer new functionalities that improve safety, efficiency and comfort across [the] spectrum of mobility, passenger car, commercial vehicle, marine and industrial, and other applications.

The supplier has stopped developing applications that are directly linked to internal combustion engines and is instead investing heavily into its EV, driver-assist and software pipeline. It signed an agreement last year with Vietnamese EV maker VinFast to provide it with an advanced driver-assist system. At the end of 2022, ZF had an order pipeline of about $26 billion in business related to plug-in hybrids and full-electric vehicles.

ZF said its CubiX software is compatible with dampers, brakes and rear-axle steering regardless of manufacturer or design, giving automakers flexibility. The software can also be upgraded via over-the-air updates.

The supplier developed the software at facilities in Germany, the Czech Republic, Romania, the U.K., India and China.

The company ranks No. 3 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers, with worldwide parts sales to automakers of $39.3 billion in 2021.

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