This is the first time that ZF has secured a business partnership in Asia Pacific for steer-by-wire, a technology necessary to enable autonomous driving.
NIO and German technology giant ZF Group signed a strategic cooperation agreement in Munich, Germany, on October 11 to collaborate in areas including steer-by-wire (SBW) products, according to a press release from the latter.
The agreement marks ZF's first SBW business partnership in the Asia-Pacific region, the release said, adding that the two companies are committed to working together to drive change and development in many areas, including autonomous driving and electrification.
Holger Klein, Member of the Board of Management, ZF Group, William Li, Founder, Chairman and CEO of NIO, and senior management on both sides attended the signing ceremony.
The two parties will establish an instant information-sharing mechanism, conduct regular technical exchanges and work together to set industry-leading process and quality standards, a ZF press release said.
The two sides also plan to cooperate in areas such as brand promotion, product marketing, technology and quality enhancements, as well as customer service.
"ZF's new steer-by-wire system is a market-leading, cutting-edge technology. We are excited to be working closely with NIO, an outstanding representative of the Chinese automotive industry that is actively engaged in technology and business model innovation, and a pioneer in the globalization of the Chinese automotive industry, " said Klein.
(William Li, NIO, (left) and Holger Klein, ZF, (right), next to NIO's ET7 electric limousine.)
As vehicles become increasingly electric, autonomous, and software-defined, ZF has been establishing a leading position in the industry with its comprehensive by-wire technology offerings, and has been awarded significant contracts by multiple OEMs with steer-by-wire launches scheduled in all major regions, said Christophe Marnat, Executive Vice President, Active Safety Systems, ZF Group.
As a background, SBW allows for the complete decoupling of steering wheel and wheels and is essential of the steer-by-wire chassis, responsible for the lateral control of the entire vehicle.
As an important core technology for vehicle intelligence, SBW is not only necessary to achieve advanced autonomous driving, but will also give greater imagination to intelligent cockpit design.
SBW has only emerged in recent years, and some countries have now allowed the technology for use in production vehicles, although this is not yet the case in China.
China's steering standard GB 17675-2021, which came into effect in January, lifted previous restrictions on the coupling of steering wheel and wheel objects. However, national standards related to SBW mass-production products are still missing.
Notably, last December, the SBW working group of the China Automotive Technology and Research Center (CATARC) announced at its first meeting that it would initiate the development of a national standard on the technology, with NIO, Jidu, and Geely leading the effort.
In the international market, ZF is one of the major players in the SBW space, having signed contracts with several major European and American automakers and planning to mass produce steer-by-wire systems in major markets around the world.
The German technology giant has been in the Chinese market since 1981 and has established nearly 50 production facilities, four R&D centers, nearly 240 after-sales service outlets in more than 20 cities and employs about 20,000 people in China.
Sales in the Asia-Pacific region, mainly in China, account for about 25 percent of ZF's global sales, and its market sales in China have reached 7 billion euros, accounting for about 20 percent of global sales.