Earlier in 2021, Ford announced that they will invest over R15-billion in South Africa’s automotive manufacturing sector. Now, Ford South Africa’s managing director, Neale Hill, has divulged more information about this massive investment and how it will benefit production output and employment in the country.

The investment will no doubt play a large role in modernising Ford’s manufacturing facilities, but it will also increase the growth of South Africa’s vehicle output and the national economy. The company’s main production facility in Silverton will be upgraded for the increase in vehicle output and will create a further 1200 permanent jobs. Ford is a direct customer of Formex Industries; using our components, notably brake and clutch assemblies, on their vehicles.

Ford Focus driving on desert sand dune

Ford Ranger after the investment

The launch of the all-new Ford Ranger, scheduled for release in 2022, will be the first result of the investment. The Ranger is already the company’s most successful vehicle in the South African market. It rivals the Toyota Hilux in terms of monthly sales and this investment will help to improve its local and international statistics.

“The annual installed capacity at the Silverton plant will increase to 200 000 vehicles from 168 000, supporting the production of the Ranger for the domestic market and export to over 100 global markets,” explains Hill. “Ford will hire an additional 1200 team members to support expanded production, bringing its workforce in South Africa to 5500 employees,” he adds.

This multi-billion Rand injection will also create around 10 000 new jobs across the South African supply chain and distributor network. “As part of our extensive investment in the Silverton plant, we’re also building a new Ford-owned and operated chassis line in the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ) for this new vehicle programme,” says Hill.

New equipment at Formex Industries as a result of Ford investment

State-of-the-art robotics at the new Formex Industries facility that will manufacture components for the new Ford Ranger.

Government and state-owned enterprises will also benefit

Ford South Africa is in the process of setting up strategic partnerships with the South African government and SOEs, such as Transnet, to improve transport routes between Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. This high-capacity rail freight corridor is an essential lifeline for the automotive industry. 

Like Formex, many production facilities are situated in the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan area. Transporting these automotive components between Gauteng and the Eastern Cape requires efficiency and reliability. The partnership will establish a full-service, direct link between the Pretoria-based Silverton plant and Gqeberha, which is where Ford’s engine plant is located.

“Ford will invest R5.5-billion to upgrade tooling [at] our major supplier factories,” explains Hill. “Supporting our suppliers with this new tooling will ensure we modernise together to deliver world-class quality for the all-new Ranger at higher volumes for our domestic and import customers,” he continues.

New equipment at Formex Industries as a result of Ford investment

Ford South Africa management visits the new Formex facility, still under construction.

Ford working on its own energy solutions

While Ford has faith that the energy crisis in South Africa will be resolved, it has also been working on its own solutions to ensure that load-shedding does not hinder productivity. These include water recycling initiatives and the use of non-fermentable waste repurposing to produce bio-syngas for the facility’s heating needs.

“Our goal by 2024 is to have the Silverton plant completely energy self-sufficient and 100% carbon neutral, using an integrated renewable and co-generation energy mix comprising solar PV, biomass, biogas and bio-syngas for all our electricity, gas and heating requirements,” says Hill.

The multi-billion rand investment is the largest ever made by an automotive company in the South African market. It is a complex, multi-faceted injection of cash that will benefit far more than just Ford itself. It is a welcome show of trust in the local manufacturing sector and the quality of automotive components produced throughout South Africa.

Formex Industries is a metal forming and assembly company that supplies a variety of complex products to the local automotive industry and the export market. The company is based in the Nelson Mandela Bay metropole, South Africa’s foremost region for automotive manufacturing and export.

Formex is a supplier with over 80% black ownership, of which more than 40% are black women. The company is owned by Deneb Investments Limited – a subsidiary of Hosken Consolidated Investments Limited (HCI) – one of South Africa’s biggest true B-BBEE companies listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

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