Saturday, January 31, 2004

Ford may reacquire ZF plant

Batavia plant makes new CVT transmission

By Mike Boyer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ford Motor Co. may reacquire the 51 percent of the ZF Batavia transmission plant it doesn't already own.

Spokesmen for Ford and German-based ZF Group confirmed the two companies are discussing a change in control for the 1,400-employee plant that makes front-wheel drive transmissions.

But they declined to elaborate, or comment on a German press report that ZF, part of closely held ZF Friedrichshafen AG, was planning to sell its stake in the five-year old joint venture back to Ford.

ZF, whose North American auto component operations are based in Florence, acquired 51 percent of the Batavia plant from Ford in 1999, as part of a plan to begin producing a new type of more efficient transmission, known as a continuously variable transmission, for Ford and other automakers.

The 1.8-million-square-foot plant, renamed ZF Batavia, began producing the first of the new transmissions last fall for a Ford Focus sold in Europe.

Later this year, it will begin producing more of the transmissions for Ford's new 500 sedan and the Ford Freestyle crossover vehicle.

The Batavia facility, which opened in 1980, was one of the first U.S. plants to build front-wheel-drive transmissions. It also produces transmissions for the Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute.



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