Preparing for the future a walk in the park for Ranger maker Ford
The managing director said the 162-hectare industrial park, situated adjacent to FMCSA’s manufacturing plant, had kicked off five years ago, but struggled to gain traction until the past 18 months, when the government had finally begun to throw its weight behind getting the export processing zone going.
The project would ultimately lead to the creation of 70000 jobs in the automotive industry supplier chain, and Phase 1, comprising 81ha, was fully subscribed, he said.
The park would allow some automotive component manufacturers to tie more easily into the FMSCA plant, thereby reducing transport costs, increasing localisation, improving the stock levels of the FMCSA plant and allowing FMCSA to more easily expand.
Hill said Ford believed that now was the right time to prepare manufacturing capacity, so that it could grow exports when the economy once more began to improve.
He said the Ford Ranger pick-up, which is sold in more than 180 markets around the world and exported from South Africa to 100 of those markets, was FMCA’s top export vehicle.
More than 400000 of them have been exported since the vehicle first came into production in 2011. FMSCA had produced 65908 of them in 2019.
Some Ranger vehicles, at a rate of 1000 a month, were exported from Port Elizabeth last year, partly because of problems at the port of Durban.
The strong demand was primarily from Europe, where Ranger notched up its best-ever sales of more than 52500 vehicles last year, which helped Ford record its best year for commercial vehicles in the region for the past 25 years.
Hill said Ford was working hard on the electrical, hybrid and self-drive revolution taking place in global automotive markets, and prototypes of the F150 Ranger pick-up and Ford Transit light commercial vehicle were undergoing testing.
Some $1.45 billion (R21.71bn) was being invested in Ford's Michigan plant to enable it to produce F150 pick-ups and SUVs, he said.
Hill said that for electrical and self-drive vehicles to be able to come to the South African market in a meaningful way, the government would have to reduce the current high tariffs on electrical and hybrid vehicle imports.
In addition, confidence would need to be restored in the supply of energy in South Africa, an electrical charging infrastructure would need to be rolled out, and there would need to be increased investment in green energy and customer buy-in.
“We have found that once consumers sample the benefits and abilities of the new vehicles it is quite easy to gain their buy-in after that,” said Hill.
“In the past we used to talk about new engine choices and fuels, now we talk about propulsion systems."