The Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa is planning to hire more workers in South Africa because of strong demand for its newly launched Ford Ranger bakkie.
Jeff Nemeth, Ford SA’s president and chief executive, confirmed this last week but stressed that the firm was only just starting this process and still trying to decide on the new operating pattern.
Nemeth said it was not possible to give any indication yet of how many additional workers would be employed or by how much production at Ford’s plant in Silverton, in Pretoria, would be increased.
He said part of this process included determining what workforce was available and how quickly the company would be able to hire and train them and the ability of the supply base to keep up with the planned increased production.
Nemeth stressed that hiring additional workers was dependent on ongoing demand for the Ranger.
“There are a lot of moving parts (to the process),” he said.
However, Nemeth indicated that Ford SA was hoping to raise production “significantly”.
Ford SA experienced component supply problems because of the floods in Thailand last year, which led to the launch of the Ranger being delayed from October last year until January.
Nemeth said there was normally an eight- to 12-week production ramp-up with a new vehicle launch and the original plan was to start the Ranger production ramp-up from last October and be in full production from January this year.
He added that as production ramped up, the company had planned to assess the supply base and its internal capability with the three-week production shutdown over Christmas used to fix any problems.
“We never had that ramp-up because of the Thailand floods and we had to do a 12-week ramp-up in four weeks, which meant we were never able to trouble-shoot, and had to refine the supply chain in February and March.”
However, Nemeth said production at its Silverton plant was now right on schedule and it was producing an average of 204 Ranger units a day and on one day last month it had produced 253 units.
He stressed that the shortage of Ranger units was “a great problem to have” and testimony to the reception of the vehicle in all markets.
Ford SA sold only 460 Ranger units in South Africa in February but the company achieved a new light commercial vehicle sales record of 1 806 Ranger sales in March, followed by 1 322 unit sales last month.
Dean Stoneley, Ford SA’s vice-president for marketing, sales and service, said the firm’s sales increased year on year by 26.5 percent last month, largely because of the Ranger, compared with the 10.5 percent growth for the total new vehicle market. Stoneley said the group’s total light commercial vehicle sales increased by 44 percent year on year last month, driven by the continued more stable supply of the new Ranger.
He said the momentum of Ford SA’s sales had outpaced the total industry in the past two months and it had increased its market share year on year by 2 percentage points last month, which was the largest increase in the industry.
Ford SA made a R3.4 billion investment in some of the latest automotive manufacturing technologies at its Silverton plant for the production of the new Ford Ranger and its engine plant in Port Elizabeth.
This investment increased the annual production capacity of the plant to 110 000 units, with 75 percent of this earmarked for export, and created thousands of jobs.
Ranger units produced in South Africa are exported to 148 markets globally.