US motor giant Ford Motor Company on Tuesday announced R15.8 billion investment in its South Africa subsidiary, cementing its commitment to the local market. This marks the biggest investment in Ford’s 97-year history in South Africa.
The investment is expected to create more than 1 200 jobs, increasing the local workforce to 5,500 employees, and adding an estimated 10,000 new jobs across Ford’s local supplier network, bringing the total to 60,000.
It also represents one of the largest-ever investments in the South African automotive industry.
“This investment will further modernize our South African operations, helping them to play an even more important role in the turnaround and growth of our global automotive operations, as well as our strategic alliance with Volkswagen,” said Dianne Craig, president, Ford’s International Markets Group.
“Ranger is one of our highest volume, most successful global vehicles. This investment will equip our team with the tools and facilities to deliver the best Ford Ranger ever, in higher numbers and with superior quality.”
The overall investment includes R10.3 billion for extensive upgrades to the Silverton Assembly Plant that will increase production volume and drive significant improvements in production efficiency and vehicle quality.
These include the construction of a new body shop with the latest robotic technology and a new high-tech stamping plant, both of which will be located on-site for the first time. Both facilities will modernize and streamline the integrated manufacturing process at Silverton while contributing to higher quality and reducing overall cost and waste.
The new stamping plant will use a high-speed line to produce all the major sheet metal components for the new Ranger. It includes a fully automated storage and retrieval system for stamping dies, which will be housed innovatively in the roof of the facility, thus eliminating related labour-intensive processes. In addition, a modern blue-light scanner system that scans surfaces for imperfections will ensure the highest-quality final product leaves the stamping plant.
Ford said the new investment program builds on the recently announced Project Blue Oval renewable energy, which aligns with the company’s global target of using 100-percent locally sourced renewable energy for all its manufacturing plants by 2035 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
The first phase of Project Blue Oval already is underway with the construction of solar carports for 4,200 vehicles at the Silverton plant.
The company aims to achieve ‘Island Mode’, taking the Silverton Assembly Plant completely off the grid, becoming entirely energy self-sufficient and carbon neutral by 2024. “It will be one of the very first Ford plants anywhere in the world to achieve this status,” said Andrea Cavallaro, director of Operations, Ford’s International Markets Group.
Ford also will invest US$365 million (R5.5 billion) to upgrade tooling at the company’s major supplier factories.
“Supporting our suppliers with this new tooling will ensure we modernize together to deliver world-class quality for the all-new Ranger at higher volumes for our domestic and import customers,” Cavallaro said.