On 1 August 1895, the Schweinfurter Präzisions-Kugellagerwerke Fichtel & Sachs general partnership (oHG) was founded in Schweinfurt by inventors Ernst Sachs (1867-1932) and Karl Fichtel, to produce ball bearings and bicycle hubs. In 1897, the company introduced its freewheel for bicycles, which became widely popular.
By 1911, the year Fichtel died, the company had approximately 7,000 employees. In 1923, the oHG partnership was changed to a stock corporation, and the ball bearing division was sold to the SKF, a Swedish ball bearing corporation, with the condition that the production remain in Schweinfurt permanently.
From 1929 to 1996, F&S also produced motors, first for bicycles, and later for motorbikes, two-stroke snowmobiles, and small cars. (The Messerschmitt KR175 and Messerschmitt KR 200 used Sachs engines (1955 to 1964)) In 1929, F&S started production of automobile components, mainly clutches and shock absorbers. Ernst Sachs died in 1932, and, in 1936, his son Willy Sachs donated the Willy-Sachs-Stadion sporting arena to the City of Schweinfurt.
In 1987, the German Mannesmann AG acquired the majority of F&S stock, and in 1997 F&S was renamed to Mannesmann Sachs AG.
In 2001, Sachs was sold to ZF Friedrichshafen AG, and renamed to ZF Sachs AG. The bicycle division was sold to a US-company, the Chicago-based SRAM Corporation, leaving the Sachs division of ZF to focus on the production of automobile components for drivetrains and chassis. As of 2003, ZF Sachs AG had 16,511 employees in 19 countries, and a sales volume of 2.1 billion euros. The sales volume has since dropped to 1.8 billion euros in 2011.