BERLIN -- Self-driving cars are years away, but their lure is prompting ZF Friedrichshafen AG, a German supplier of transmissions and other mainstream products, to consider buying TRW Automotive, said ZF's finance chief.
ZF is in early acquisition talks with TRW, which makes airbags, electronics and braking and steering equipment. TRW has been pushing hard recently to develop technologies to enable automated driving.
CFO Konstantin Sauer said ZF was well-placed in powertrains and chassis, but that other areas were growing in importance, highlighting connected-car devices and autonomous driving, Reuters reported.
"TRW, with its years of market expertise, technology and products would be the perfect complement," Sauer said in an interview with Boersen-Zeitung on July 19.
Robert Bosch GmbH, a German rival of ZF, also is investing heavily in such new technologies.
TRW has a market capitalization of about $11 billion, so the deal would be a major acquisition for ZF, which had revenue of 16.84 billion euros ($22.8 billion) in 2013.
ZF ranks No. 9 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with auto parts sales of $20.43 billion in its 2013 fiscal year. TRW is No. 11, with $16.15 billion in such sales in 2013.
Bloomberg, citing people close to the situation, has reported that lenders are prepared to support a ZF bid for TRW as high as $13 billion.
Sauer declined to give details of financing for any deal in the interview.
ZF and TRW's combined $36.58 billion in business with automakers last year would have ranked behind only No. 1 Robert Bosch, at an estimated $40.18 billion, according to the Automotive News list.
The potential deal contrasts recent supplier moves to increase profits by shedding noncore business units.