Ford Ranger. Picture: SUPPLIED
Ford Ranger. Picture: SUPPLIED

Unprecedented international demand for the SA-built Ranger bakkie has enabled Ford Southern Africa to increase its workforce by more than 25%.

The company is employing an additional 1,200 workers to man a third daily shift at its Silverton, Tshwane, vehicle assembly plant. The decision is expected to create a further 10,000 jobs at components and service suppliers.

The US-owned company currently employs about 4,300 people at Silverton and an engine manufacturing plant in  Port Elizabeth. The new hires will take the number to 5,500. Ford estimates that, including suppliers, its SA activities directly support about 60,000 jobs.

From early August, Silverton will build vehicles 24 hours a day from Monday to Thursday, with the option of a third Friday shift, as well to make up any production shortfalls.

Ford has spent R11bn on its SA operations since 2009. The most recent investment in 2017, was R3bn. Most of the money has gone to Silverton, which builds single- and double-cab Rangers, along with two upmarket variants, the Everest sports utility vehicle and high-performance Raptor.

Operations head Ockert Berry said the extra shift would increase Silverton’s annual production capacity from 124,000 to 168,000. Daily production will rise from 506 to 720. When Silverton began building Ranger in 2011, the annual limit was 110,000.

Ranger is one of SA’s most popular vehicles but two-thirds of production is exported to 148 markets around the world. The SA-built Ranger is Europe’s best-selling bakkie. Silverton also sends semi-built Rangers to Nigeria for reassembly as “local” vehicles.

Growing export demand has forced Ford to ship some vehicles through Port Elizabeth harbour. Berry said Durban, the traditional export hub, could no longer cope alone.

Ford’s SA spending programme has been made possible by government’s automotive production and development programme (APDP), which offers investment and  duty rebates. Despite its success in attracting foreign automotive investment since 2013,

Berry said the APDP’s benefits still fell short of those offered in other countries, like Thailand, where Ford also builds Ranger. SA should not assume because it had attracted foreign investors so far, they would stay forever.

“We compete with Thailand for investment and their incentives are better than ours,” Berry said. “We can’t be complacent.”