In the lead-up to the 2022 launch of the Next-Generation Ford Ranger, last month, automotive manufacturer Ford South Africa hosted a high-level delegation for an oversight visit at its Silverton Assembly Plant and the adjacent Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ).
This followed the announcement in February of Ford Motor Company’s $1.05-billion investment in its Silverton plant and supplier facilities to modernise its local operations, and expand installed production capacity to 200 000 vehicles a year.
The government delegation included Department of Trade, Industry and Competition Deputy Minister Fikile Majola, Industrial Development Corporation Special Economic Zones Unit executive director Lionel October, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, Economic Affairs MEC Parks Tau and TASEZ CEO Simphiwe Hamilton.
Ford was represented by its senior leadership team from the International Markets Group (IMG), headed by its president Dianne Craig and operations director Andrea Cavallaro among others.
Craig began the launch by saying it was amazing to have witnessed exactly where and how the investment was used.
The Silverton plant is one of five Ford facilities globally that assembles Ford’s Ranger pick-up, along with two plants in Thailand, and one each in Argentina and the US.
The Next-Generation Ranger is scheduled to start build next year at the Silverton plant and will be sold in South Africa as well as exported to over 100 global markets, including the entire African continent.
“We truly appreciate and value our partnership with national, provincial and local government which helped make this investment possible. It is impacting communities with 1 200 incremental new jobs at Ford, and an additional 10 000 jobs in the total value chain. So it is changing lives for South Africans, not just in the years ahead, but for decades to come,” Craig said.
The transformation of the Silverton Assembly Plant is already at an advanced stage, with the entire assembly line having already been upgraded and modernized, introducing Ford’s latest technologies and best practices globally.
Ford is also building its first on-site Stamping Plant and an all-new body shop at the Silverton plant, with the majority of the equipment already installed and being readied for the initial tooling trials early next year. A 100 000 m2 Ford-owned frame line is under construction in the TASEZ with the e-coat section of the facility near completion, and the installation of two fully automated robotic assembly lines about to begin.
“Ockert Berry and his team at Ford South Africa have totally transformed the Silverton plant, and its unrecognisable from just six months ago. Modernising this plant is a crucial step in ensuring that it is comparable with the best Ford plants in the world, and will deliver the highest levels of quality, and at the required volumes to meet the significant demand globally,” Cavallaro said.
Cavallaro added that he would like to commend Simphiwe Hamilton and his TASEZ team, who had pulled out all the stops to deliver on the targets, despite the immense challenges posed by Covid-19.
In February last year, the TASEZ site was an open field, and now we have two suppliers already manufacturing parts and delivering them directly to the Silverton assembly line, with several others soon to follow.
“Ford’s decision to invest in South Africa and in this plant is very important for us, as it supports thousands of jobs in the local communities. Our partnership with Ford in the TASEZ is one of our great success stories, as it serves as an example of what government working with the private sector can do,” Majola said.
He added that partnerships like this would play an important role in helping drive the African Continental Free Trade Area agenda which President Cyril Ramaphosa had prioritised to integrate and develop the African continent.
“It is amazing to see construction and production happening at the same time at the Ford plant and in the TASEZ, and I congratulate the team on all the work done thus far. It is now up to government to meet Ford’s deadline when they reach full production to be able to move the vehicles efficiently to the ports via the rail corridors so that we can export these vehicles around the world.”
Makhura pointed out that Ford’s $1.05-billion investment was great news when it was announced in February this year, and it was still the best South African investment story from a single company. “We’re grateful for the investment and Ford’s confidence in the country, and we are working closely with all our partners to reciprocate by doing everything we can to make this project a success.”
He added that, aside from the buildings and construction, it was the job creation that had the biggest impact.
“We are looking forward to a long and successful journey with Ford, and we hope the success of the first phase of the TASEZ will lead to further opportunities in the future,” Makhura concluded.