Johannesburg - The Ford Motor Company has created a new business unit for the Middle East and Africa, highlighting the increasing importance of Africa as a growing market for vehicles.
The new business unit will be operational from January next year and will be one of only four regional business units within Ford’s worldwide operations. The other three units are the Americas, Asia Pacific, and Europe and Russia.
Alan Mulally, the global president and chief executive of US-based Ford, said yesterday that the establishment of the unit formed part of the company’s plans for growth in South Africa.
“This moves the Middle East and Africa up to the top of Ford by being one of four business units, all supported by engineering, manufacturing and production worldwide.
“What we are saying to ourselves and the world is that the Middle East and Africa is going to be a major player,” he said at the Johannesburg International Motor Show.
Mulally said the rationale for the establishment of the unit was the economic growth expected in the Middle East and Africa, and the accompanying growth in the region’s automotive market.
“It’s a tremendous growth opportunity for us,” he said.
Jim Benintende, the newly appointed president of Ford Middle East and Africa, said: “I think there are a lot of opportunities for Ford in these markets. I don’t think we have tapped our potential and [we] will grow substantially in the next few years.”
Mulally added that by 2017 South African customers would be able to choose from a completely new vehicle line-up because Ford would launch 15 globally available vehicles in the country.
Although the head office of the Middle East and Africa business unit would be in Dubai, Mulally stressed that Ford was “absolutely committed to South Africa”. It was not considering establishing other manufacturing plants in Africa “at this stage”as its priority was to use its capabilities in South Africa to the fullest possible extent.
He had not had any talks with the government during this trip to the country but wherever he went around the world he tried to speak to government leaders because it was so important.
He said Ford in South Africa was on the world stage of the automotive industry and was “a fantastic story”, with its Ranger exported to 148 countries.
Mulally avoided directly answering a question about whether Ford trusted the unions in South Africa, stressing instead that Ford trusted the process of working together with all its stakeholders.
Mulally serves on the President’s Export Council, which was formed to advise US President Barack Obama on export enhancement and ways to encourage companies to increase exports and enter markets.
Asked what advice he would give the government if he sat on a similar council in South Africa, Mulally said that from a global perspective it was most important to recognise that economic development was led by the private sector worldwide.
Business environments that were thriving were those where the government understood its job was to create an environment that allowed economic development led by the private sector, because that was the engine of growth and the source of all value creation. - Business Report