FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany (Reuters) - German autos supplier ZF Friedrichshafen [ZFF.UL] plans to produce an electric vehicle with the e.Go Mobile start-up that helped develop Deutsche Post DHL’s Streetscooter.
ZF has formed a joint venture called e.Go Move, in which it holds a 40 percent state, to produce an electric van which can be used as a delivery vehicle or a minibus for up to 15 people.
“We are launching this company to achieve a leading market position in this segment of passenger transport,” said Chief Executive Wolf-Henning Scheider.
The unlisted supplier based in Friedrichshafen, a town on the shores of Lake Constance, wants to cut its dependence on combustion-engine cars, and has sought to build up its expertise in components for autonomous and electric vehicles.
ZF said the vehicle intended for city use might eventually drive autonomously, predicting global demand for 1 million such vans in the next five to seven years.
Scheider said ZF did not want to become a competitor to its customers, but wanted to work with a start-up because it was more flexible than big auto makers, helping it make rapid progress with the development of autonomous driving.
“We are currently building a second factory in Aachen - in an almost Chinese speed of 15 months, said e.Go Mobile head Guenther Schuh.
ZF will provide financing of more than 100 million euros ($117 million), but also deliver electric motors, steering, brakes and automatic driving functions and steering.
The first vehicles should be ready in the second half of 2019 with an initial run of 400, ramping up to 2,500 to 3,500 in 2020 and then 15,000 in 2021.
Scheider took over in February after the previous CEO and chairman left after the company’s owners blocked a takeover of U.S. commercial vehicle parts supplier Wabco Holdings.
On Tuesday, Scheider said he did not expect any major acquisitions in the near future, although it was looking at opportunities as ZF has reduced its debts after the $13.5 billion buy of U.S.-based TRW Automotive Holdings Corp in 2015.
Asked if Wabco could still be of interest, Scheider said brakes were not a priority for ZF at the moment as it focuses on the switch to electric and autonomous driving.
He added that ZF’s stake in Swedish brake systems group Haldex was just a financial investment.
Reporting by Ilona Wissenbach, writing by Emma Thomasson, editing by Alexander Smith