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First new Ford Ranger assembled at Silverton plant, where Phase 2 solar project is in the works

2nd December 2022

By: Irma Venter

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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The first new Ranger has been assembled at Ford’s Silverton plant in Pretoria.

Production of the new-generation bakkie follows a R16-billion investment in the US carmaker’s local operations and at its suppliers.

Ford now has three production hubs in its International Markets Group (IMG) producing the new Ranger – the Silverton plant and two plants in Thailand.

The company also has completely knockdown operations in Vietnam and Cambodia, with plants in the US and Argentina to begin production next year.

Capacity at the Silverton plant has been increased to 200 000 units a year, with 70% of production to be exported to markets such as Europe and Mexico, says Ford IMG operations director Andrea Cavallaro.

The Pretoria plant will, however, not realise its full production volume next year, he adds, as the single-cab will only enter production around April.

Currently, only the Volkswagen Amarok and Ranger double-cabs are being produced at the plant.

Cavallaro is positive, however, that the facility should be able to reach 150 000 units in 2023, as “demand is pretty hot”.

He warns though that Europe is expected to face tough economic conditions next year, and that this will most likely dampen the automotive market there.

“That will have an impact on what we produce here, but we are still sketchy on what that impact will be – 10%? 20%?”

Ford will also have to weigh all its global production options as Europe has unexpectedly pulled forward the introduction of Euro VII emission standards to 2025.

The much stricter standard has the potential to greatly impact on South Africa’s new-vehicle exports to Europe, this country’s single biggest export market.

“It is a bit of a strange announcement, and we’ll have to see what engineering is required to meet all of those conditions,” says Cavallaro.

“They have changed the conditions and brought it forward.”

He confirms that Ford is working on a Ranger plug-in hybrid, which will, from its inherent engineering, be able to meet stricter emission standards.

“Europe is really important for us,” says Cavallaro. “And with our production footprint global we have the flexibility to move things around.”

He is quick, however, to calm any fears about South Africa’s production future.

“We have invested here and the last thing we would do is not use the capacity here.”

Cavallaro does, however, emphasise that Silverton will have to deliver a sustained quality assembly effort going forward, as will the operation’s component suppliers.

As for the continued loadshedding rounds the South African manufacturing sector is forced to face, Cavallaro says Ford’s manufacturing operations in Pretoria and Port Elizabeth appear to be cushioned from the effects of Stages 1 to 4, but not Stage 5 and higher.

Therefore, Ford is steaming ahead with its plans to reach grid independence by 2025, with some serious planning to achieve this expected in the next 12 months.

A first phase of solar power, already implemented, will be followed by a second stage, which should address about 35% to 40% of Silverton’s energy needs, says Cavallaro.

Phase 2 will also include battery solutions, as the plant now runs 24 hours a day in a three-shift operation.

The next phases will look at other renewable sources, such as biogas.

New Plant
Ford’s revamped Silverton plant boasts an on-site stamping plant, a new, highly automated body shop, a Ford-owned and operated frame line, and refreshed vehicle assembly operations on the trim, chassis and final line.

The expanded plant added 1 200 new jobs for a third shift, in order to support increased production volumes. This takes the workforce at Ford South Africa to 5 500 employees.

Ford’s supplier network benefited too, with about 10 000 jobs added across the value chain.

A total of 873 751 previous-generation Rangers were produced at the Silverton plant.

Of these, nearly 603 000 units were exported to more than 100 global markets, while 271 000 units were produced for South Africa.

The Silverton plant has also been producing the Everest seven-seater sport-utility vehicle since 2016. However, with the plant now focused on expanded production for the new Ranger, the new Everest and Ranger Raptors will be sourced from Thailand.

In addition to the Silverton investment, Ford injected R600-million into its Struandale engine plant in Gqeberha, which produces all the engines used in the new Ranger for South Africa and more than 100 export markets.

The investment in the Struandale plant has helped Ford to introduce the new 3 ℓ V6 diesel engine programme, comprising cylinder head machining and engine assembly.

Upgrades for the new Ranger were also implemented on the existing assembly line for the 2 ℓ single turbo and 2 ℓ bi-turbo diesel engines.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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