President Cyril Ramaphosa with government officials including Gauteng Premier David Makhura and Tshwane Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa at the launch of the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone. Picture: Jonisayi Maromo/African News Agency (ANA)

PRETORIA – The Ford Motor Company is committed to work closely with the South African government, and local stakeholders in expanding its automotive business in the country and creating more jobs, the company's managing director for Southern Africa Neale Hill said on Tuesday.

"Mr President [Cyril Ramaphosa], I can confirm to you today that Ford Motor Company remains fully committed to South Africa. We are committed to growing our business, supporting the industry, the component suppliers and the value chain as a whole. 

"We are committed to create incremental new job opportunities for local communities," Hill said at the auspicious launch of the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (SEZ) inside hosted at Ford Motor Company in Silverton, east of Pretoria.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, left, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, centre and City of Tshwane Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa at the launch of the City of Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone. Picture: Jonisayi Maromo/African News Agency (ANA)

"Today's launch represents a milestone as Ford has united with all three spheres of government - the dti [department of trade and industry], Gauteng province and the city of Tshwane to develop the site behind me as an automotive component manufacturers' hub, a truly world class automotive city." 

The Tshwane Automotive SEZ is an automotive component supplier industrial park that will play a significant role in bolstering further investment and job creation in the local economy. Ford says the industrial hub will also be instrumental in enabling future expansion opportunities for Ford's local operations. 

Hill told guests that the trademark Ford Ranger manufactured at the Pretoria plant, apart from being a hit on the South African market, is exported to more than 100 markets around the world. 

“The Ranger is the leading light commercial vehicle export from South Africa and is the top-selling pickup in Europe. This is the result of an investment of more than R11 billion in our local operations since 2009 – here at the Silverton vehicle plant and at the Struandale Engine Plant in Port Elizabeth,” he said.

“When we kicked off our export-driven investment programme in 2009, Ford was producing approximately 25,000 vehicles per year, primarily for the domestic market. Since then our production volume has grown more than 400 percent and we’ve unlocked similar expansions in our supply base.

President Cyril Ramaphosa officially launches the Tshwane Automotive Hub at the Ford Motor Company in Mamelodi. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

"In 2016 alone, we invested over R3 billion to increase our production capacities, and to support local production of the Ford Everest SUV.” 

Ford’s Everest seven-seater sport utility vehicle is also assembled locally for South African customers and for export markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The launch of the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone was officiated by President Ramaphosa. 

Delegates included Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel, Gauteng Premier David Makhura, Tshwane Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa, European Union Ambassador to South Africa, Marcus Cornaro, United Kingdom High Commissioner Nigel Casey, Charge’ D Affaires for the United States Embassy in South Africa David Young, the National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa’s (Naamsa's) Mike Mabasa, and the National Association of Automotive Component and Allied Manufacturers’ (Naacam's) Renai Moothilal. 

Over the past decade, Ford’s production capacity has increased from around 25,000 vehicles to 110,000 per annum when the Ranger production and export programme commenced in 2011. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa officially launches the Tshwane Automotive Hub at the Ford Motor Company in Mamelodi. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

The most recent investment of approximately R3 billion in 2016 enabled the Silverton plant to further expand its production capacity and it is currently capable of producing up to 168 000 vehicles per annum, or 720 vehicles per day.

About two-thirds of these vehicles are destined for export markets, predominantly in Europe and the UK.

African News Agency (ANA)