(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
JOHANNESBURG - Hundreds of new direct and indirect jobs are expected to be created by a new R3 billion investment by the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) to further increase the manufacturing capacity of its Silverton plant in Pretoria and enable it to meet growing local and international demand for the Ford Ranger.

The latest investment by Ford follows its R2.5bn investment in the plant last year to produce the new Ford Everest, which created about 1200 new jobs.

Casper Kruger, managing director of FMCSA, said on Friday the additional R3bn investment was a confirmation of Ford’s commitment to SA.

From 2019 the plant would also start producing the Ranger Raptor, which would introduce an entirely new level of off-road performance and capability to the one-ton pickup segment.

Ockert Berry, the vice-president of operations for Ford Middle East and Africa, said the R3bn investment included product and capacity-related actions.

“Looking further ahead, the expanded production capacity will ensure that we are geared up and fully prepared to respond to additional future market demands for the Ranger, by ramping up our production even further,” he said.

The Ranger is exported to 148 markets globally.

Kruger said investment would increase the plant’s annual capacity from 110000 units to 127000 on two shifts from January next year, with the potential to produce 167000 units a year on three shifts.

Berry said the installation of facilities related to the new investment started in the plant in February and would be finalised and completed during the plant's shutdown in December.

The investment excluded the R125million invested in the upgrade of the vehicle conveyor system in the plant in May this year, he added.

The increased production capacity and volumes produced would create additional direct and indirect jobs, but Berry declined to quantify how many new jobs would be created.

However, he said it would not be incorrect to conclude that if production volumes increased by 27percent that employment would increase by a similar percentage despite increased automation in the plant in the body shop, paint shop and trim final section.

Berry emphasised that the increased automation was focused on specific quality outcomes and to take the plant to “the next level” in terms of quality.

FMCSA currently has between 3500 to 4000 direct employees, including those at its engine plant in Struandale, Port Elizabeth.

He said the Ranger programme has been an unprecedented success and that they delivered a new all-time record of 10117 Rangers in September, comprising 7780 for the export market and 2337 domestic sales.

He said that to date more than 46000 Ford Rangers had been exported from South Africa, and 27048 sold in the domestic market.

“This continues to secure Ford’s status as one of the region’s leading vehicle manufacturers and a global centre of excellence for the Ford Ranger programme,” Berry said.

He said Ford was not prepared to guess what demand there would be for the Ford Raptor and were putting facilities in the plant to accommodate “any volume” for the model.

They initially started producing seven Ford Wildtraks a day but were now building 200 a day, which caused issues afterwards when they tried to change the plant's facilities.

Kruger wouldn't say when the current Ford Ranger, which was launched in 2011, would be replaced.

He pointed out that unlike a passenger car, which has a life cycle of about seven years, a light commercial vehicle's was about 10 years.

-BUSINESS REPORT