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Behind the ZF axles

by David Zatz on

The Dodge Brothers built the future Detroit Axle plant in 1917; Graham Brothers build trucks there in 1924. Axle production started around 1928-1929. In 2009, the plant made front and rear axles for Dakota, Ram, Grand Cherokee, Commander, and minivans, along with differentials for large cars.  By that time, its days were numbered; Daimler had started building a plant in Marysville, Michigan to replace Detroit Axle, in a joint venture with German company and longtime Chrysler partner Getrag.

When Daimler parted with Chrysler, they also put an “end of life” onto the company’s right to build Mercedes-design axles for large cars and Grand Cherokees, giving Chrysler 36 months to find replacements.  After a rapid search, Chrysler partnered with ZF to build axles in the Marysville plant, which had been abandoned along with the Getrag joint venture, and adapted the highly efficient ZF designs to their own needs. The company started using the new designs in 2012.

Chrysler owns the building in Marysville and handles the employees, while ZF manages the plant and lends its intellectual property for some axles. The plant also makes Chrysler-designed solid axles; Dana supplies axles for Wrangler and Ram 4500 and 5500.

Marysville is a small town northeast of Detroit, close to Sarnia and the Canadian border, and a good distance from the various assembly plants it supplies (the closest appears to be Warren, 45 miles away; Toledo is 115 miles away).  The plant is, however, on a rail line, mitigating transportation issues.

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