“We can handle heavy-duty too”
© Getty Images
September 2022

“We can handle heavy-duty too”

By Annett Fischer
Schaeffler exhibits at IAA Transportation for the first time: Automotive CEO Matthias Zink puts that premiere into perspective and provides insights into the reasons why Schaeffler’s innovative technologies and products are perfectly suited for pushing efficiency and sustainability forward in the transformation of the transportation and logistics sector.

The newly designed IAA Transportation trade fair is a platform and hub for transportation and logistics companies from all over the world. What makes this event so attractive?
Matthias Zink: That’s easy to answer – without the logistics industry it won’t be possible to achieve the global climate goals. Yet the industry is challenged to manage the balancing act between higher hauling capacity on the one hand and lower emissions on the other hand. That, in turn, calls for innovative technical solutions – especially from suppliers like Schaeffler. At IAA Transportation, all the players come together, showing how transportation will become safer, more efficient, and therefore more sustainable, going forward. Schaeffler will be an exhibitor for the first time and I’m very much looking forward to engaging in the exchange there.

So, it’s about time for that trade show presence …
You’re right. Many people associate Schaeffler’s Automotive division with powertrain solutions strictly for passenger cars. But we develop and manufacture systems for far more applications – including for light and heavy commercial vehicles. We can handle heavy-duty too. At the trade fair, we’re showcasing our answers to the pressing questions of the industry in the areas of powertrain and chassis.

What kinds of products provide positive answers to those questions?
We’re taking our solutions in the areas of electrification, emissions reduction, digitalization and automated driving to Hanover. My highlights are our electric motors for commercial vehicles, components for fuel cell drive systems and the Space-Drive system – a key technology for autonomous driving. Of central importance for every system and every single component that we’re showing in Hanover is our comprehensive industrialization expertise. We have end-to-end capabilities at our plants up to and including forming and surface technology processes. As a result, we achieve decisive advantages over our competitors and for sustainable mobility. But we also want to listen and learn about the industry’s concerns and how we can get closer and closer to climate-neutral transportation with our products and services. That’s why I’m personally looking forward particularly to interesting dialogs with customers, partners and representatives of the transportation and logistics sector. We all need to pull together to master the great challenge of this sustainable transformation of the transportation and logistics sector.

“The transportation sector will have to completely reinvent itself in the coming years – both in the urban environment and in long-distance hauling, with a focus on efficiency, sustainability and safety. Schaeffler is going to participate decisively in shaping this new mobility.”

“We can handle heavy-duty too”
Matthias Zink, Schaeffler CEO Automotive Technologies
© Schaeffler

The coming years will be fully focused on the transformation you mentioned. Where will the industry be in 2030 – and what milestones do you want to have achieved by then?
Looking at the current challenges, the transportation sector will have to completely reinvent itself in the coming years – both in the urban environment and in long-distance hauling, with a focus on efficiency, sustainability and safety. Schaeffler is going to participate decisively in shaping this new mobility. CO₂-efficient powertrains are a key topic for our automotive business. We understand the drive system, the requirements and the goals of our customers and on that basis develop powertrain solutions down to the level of individual components. Our product portfolio extends from systems for reducing consumption and CO₂ emissions in the powertrain to the electrification of commercial vehicles to components for fuel cell systems and powertrains using alternative fuels.

Then let’s briefly look back: What has been the major game changer in the logistics or transportation sector in the past ten years in your view?
The camera-monitor systems replacing the outside mirrors of trucks are definitely a game changer for me. The idea behind them is simple but brilliant. And it combines a lot of things: it improves the driver’s vision and reduces fuel consumption. For me, that’s a classic win-win development. Yet it’s a highly complex system requiring lots of system knowledge. I’d like to see more solutions like that.

“We can handle heavy-duty too”
Investment in transformation: A new competence center for electrified mobility is being established at the headquarters of the Automotive Technologies division in Bühl© Schaeffler

And looking ahead: As a blueprint, what innovations are internationally pointing the way toward climate neutrality?
To answer that, I’d like to mention two areas. First, systematically thought-out electrification for commercial vehicles and hydrogen drive. Both of these solution strategies have enormous potential for the transportation and logistics sector on its pathway toward climate neutrality. On September 20, I’m going to talk about that with other guests at an IAA Conference panel that will take place as part of IAA Transportation.

IAA Conference brings decision makers, visionaries and experts together in important discussions: What are your expectations of that?
In my view, IAA Conference brings together what belongs together: incumbent industry giants and newcomers, OEMs and suppliers, political leaders and experts. This holistic look at the agenda appeals to me because we all need to act in concert, especially when it comes to topics that are so important at the moment. It’s about massively reducing consumption and emissions, improving logistics chains and making life easier for drivers. Nobody can achieve that on their own. That’s why I’m looking forward to that cross-industry dialog.

What trend are you currently tracking professionally with particular interest?
That again relates to the topics I’ve previously mentioned as crucial ones for IAA Transportation. I’m thrilled to see that awareness of the importance of sustainability and the reduction of emissions has now arrived across the board in industry. These areas are being pursued consistently and becoming a reality – from the production of energy to its efficient use. For instance, a few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that as an engineer, today, I’d be dealing so intensively with energy engineering for the next generation. There’s still a lot of potential in that and I’d like to participate in tapping that potential.

Then let’s lend you a helping hand by giving you superpowers that would be useful professionally: What would they be?
Wow, thank you! To answer that, I’ll have to provide some brief context: We recently hosted the traditional Schaeffler-Kolloquium at Schaeffler, our biggest and most important customer event. Compared to our previous colloquium four years ago, we showcased more innovations, more new concepts and more prototypes in the fields of electrification, chassis applications and bearings than ever before at such an event. If I had superpowers, then I’d like to retain exactly that innovative spirit, that enthusiasm of the whole team and the courage to develop new technologies for mobility in times of change over and over, and carry it forward into the future.

Thank you very much for the interview!

About Matthias Zink
“We can handle heavy-duty too”© Schaeffler

As CEO Automotive Technologies, Matthias Zink (born in 1969) has been responsible for the Engine and Transmission Systems, E-Mobility, Bearings, Chassis Systems and New Mobility business divisions since 2019 as well as for Research and Development of the Automotive Technologies division and Global Key Account Management.

Zink, who studied mechanical engineering with a major in automotive engineering and earned his degree at Karlsruhe University in 1994, calls himself a “car guy.” Soon after starting his career at Schaeffler with LuK in 1994, Zink assumed leadership responsibility and served in various leadership roles of the company in the following years before assuming responsibility for the Clutch Systems business division in 2006. After leading the business division successfully for seven years, he became President of Schaeffler Automotive Asia/Pacific in China in 2012. In 2014, he returned to Germany.