The American yachting division of global marine propulsion company ZF Marine has posted higher than expected sales figures so far this year, explained its director, Wolfgang Schmid.

"I have the interesting problem of explaining to my board how sales are higher than expected for North and Central America," said Schmid, while admitting that Europe is a different story. "Our per unit calculations show that in the pleasure craft sector we have about 65 per cent market share."

Schmid admitted that in the smaller segment of the market, ZF has increasingly been competing with Volvo's IPS system, which has gained favour with certain boat builders for its integrated engine, transmission, steering and pod drive.


Wolfgang Schmid

But Schmid says that while the smaller boat market seems to be moving towards integrated packages, the increased cost versus a simple shaftline package means the market for ZF's products remains strong.

Schmid admits that ZF's joystick maneuvering technology they brought to market in 2009 was too complex for easy commissioning, but they have since caught up.

"We will have the upgrade version 1.5 coming out in March 2015, and the completed second generation will launch at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show next year," he said.

With expertise in power transmission across automotive and other sectors, ZF's research and development budget is enormous: the company decided to reinvest 900 million dollars last year in R&D, which has resulted in new technologies that are able to predict power needs by using GPS and location awareness.

Their latest innovation is Supershift 2, an evolution of the company's high horsepower marine transmissions.

"ZF launched the world's first eight- and nine- speed automatic transmissions for passenger cars, so we talked to yacht builders and captains to see how we could adapt this technology to marine," explained Schmid. "Supershift 2 provides a much smoother gear change with more efficient hydraulic system and increased robustness in the design." 

Schmid also reports that his sales and service team are working at increasing relationships with yacht builders and refit yards directly, so that the company's sales and after-sales services are utilised to their maximum effect.