Thomas Kerkhoff
Managing Director Aftermarket for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean
ZF Group
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View from the Top

High-Quality Products for a Price-Sensitive Aftermarket

By Antonio Gozain | Tue, 05/24/2022 - 09:30

Q: How has ZF consolidated itself as the leading aftersales partner for distributors in Mexico?

A: ZF is a global technology company supplying systems for passenger cars, commercial vehicles and industrial technology, enabling the next generation of mobility.

The aftermarket is divided into a number of segments and ZF Group is present in the passenger car, commercial vehicle and industrial segments. ZF Group is the No. 1 player in the passenger car segment and plans to further expand this product portfolio. ZF Group does not only manufacture shock absorbers but many other products, such as transmission parts, steering suspension parts, clutches, brake pads and the entire brake system.

ZF Group aims to consolidate as the No. 1 player within the passenger car sector. For example, we are trying to capture more of the corner module market. Our target is to consolidate ZF Group as the top supplier of safety components, from base-mount shock absorbers to wheel bearings, caliper cylinder pads and steering suspension components.

Q: How did the integration of Wabco impact ZF Group’s operations within the commercial vehicle segment?

A: With the integration of Wabco, ZF Group has grown in the Mexican commercial vehicle segment. We are targeting the independent aftermarket by creating a network to sell parts, becoming service partners. ZF Group’s products are technologically complex. For example, repairing a bus requires deep knowledge and the right tooling. The company aims to create a partner network in Mexico to offer all our original parts.

Q: What strategies or practices were necessary to improve ZF’s marketing?

A: ZF has a solid foundation. We are market leaders and dominate about 40 percent of the passenger car market. We aim to grow this area and jump into others by improving the marketing of our products and developing the right connections with distributors.

ZF is increasingly becoming more digital because the world is changing. Workshops are being handed over to the next generation and over 66 percent of Mexico’s population is 40 years old or younger. We are creating large communities of car mechanics to connect with those interested in our products. It is easier to measure the impact of a digital marketing campaign than the effect of TV ads, which often do not reach the target audience.

Q: What are the main challenges when introducing new products to your portfolio?

A: This is a very traditional market and introducing a different brand is not always easy. People are really loyal to brands and some of them are highly popular. We need to understand people’s preferences and explain to them the advantages, background and quality of ZF’s products. We are opening the door through marketing but it is a time-consuming process.

Q: With digital tools and internet availability, how have people become more informed about their vehicles?

A: People are getting more information and becoming more conscious about their vehicles thanks to the internet. However, the decision-makers are still the mechanics. In roughly 90 percent of cases, mechanics make the decisions. ZF’s digital content may start to address end users. For example, the company has done campaigns like Conciencia Vial to address the importance of replacing shock absorbers after a certain period of time due to safety issues.

Another interesting trend is that women are becoming increasingly interested in their vehicle and repairs. This is also an interesting group to target.

Q: What is ZF’s value proposition regarding the ongoing battle between quality and cost?

A: Quality is important, especially in this price-sensitive market. ZF’s philosophy is to never compromise our quality standards, which is crucial because we work with products that are essential for safety, such as suspension and steering components. We cannot jeopardize these products. The goal is to supply OEM-equivalent parts to the aftermarket at a good price. Our parts are miles ahead of similar low-cost products.

Q: What role do ZF’s plants in Mexico play within the company’s aftermarket operations?

A: ZF Group has approximately 25,000 employees in 17 locations in Mexico, including Aguascalientes, Chihuahua, Cienega de Flores, El Marques, Emplame, Guadalajara, Juarez, Monterrey, Queretaro, La Laguna, Mexico City, Puebla, Reynosa, Saltillo, San Luis Potosi and Toluca. Our Monterrey facility produces brake pads for the aftermarket, while the other plants are dedicated to combined production. ZF imports its other products from the EU and Asia.

ZF is also opening an R&D center in Monterrey that will focus on EVs, autonomous vehicles and support systems, such as radar and sensors.

Q: How is ZF Group expanding its business in Mexico?

A: ZF group has a new 11,100-square-meter manufacturing and business operations electronics facility in Monterrey. In Guadalupe, we are building a 9,100-square-meter engineering and business center that will support research and engineering. It will be operational in 2023 and will launch products like ZF’s S Cam 4.8, an advanced forward-facing object recognition camera. This facility will create 1,000 new jobs.

ZF is expanding operations at ZF Chassis Technology Plant in Toluca by more than 8,000 square meters. The plant makes control arms, stabilizer bar links and steering knuckles, mainly for the North American market. In Queretaro, ZF Steering Plant is receiving an investment of over MX$1.28 billion (US$64 million), which will create more than 500 new jobs.

 

ZF Friedrichshafen is a German manufacturer of drivetrain and chassis  components for light and heavy vehicles and motorcycles. The company  has presence in Mexico since 1965 and its aftermarket division specializes  in suspension, powertrain, chassis, braking systems and steering. ZF has 16 manufacturing plants across Mexico.

Antonio Gozain Antonio Gozain Journalist and Industry Analyst