ZF Friedrichshafen AG won approval from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to buy TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. on the condition it sells TRW’s linkage and suspension business in North America and Europe.

The FTC said without the asset sales the $12.4 billion merger would harm competition in the market for heavy-vehicle tie rods. ZF and Livonia, Michigan-based TRW, merging to create the world’s second-largest auto-parts supplier, have only one rival in North America for tie rods designed for vehicles weighing at least six tons, the FTC said.

TRW agreed last month to sell the business to THK Co. for $400 million in cash.

With the deal, ZF is in position to leap ahead of Japan’s Denso Corp. and Germany’s Continental AG to become the world’s second-largest maker of auto parts, trailing only Robert Bosch GmbH. The deal will combine ZF’s transmissions with TRW’s electronics, allowing the group to offer automakers larger packages of components.

ZF Friedrichshafen was formed in 1915 from the Zeppelin Foundation by Count Ferdinand Graf Von Zeppelin, builder of the famous airships that bore his name, according to the company’s website.

Other recent auto-related deals have come from Sage Automotive Interiors, which acquired Miko Srl, a maker of interior fabrics for cars. Other buyers include Gridiron Capital, which acquired car-service company Dent Wizard, and Avis Budget Group Inc. (Nasdaq: CAR), which closed the $160 million purchase of Maggiore Group in April. 


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