Blue Oval’s R3bn in­vest­ment flies the South African flag

LONG-TERM FLEET

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS - Mark Smyth

Ford SA’s an­nounce­ment that it is in­vest­ing an­other R3bn into its pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity in Sil­ver­ton near Pre­to­ria is great news for the com­pany, the in­dus­try and for SA.

At a time when there are so many neg­a­tives, it shows a pos­i­tive level of con­fi­dence.

It also shows the pop­u­lar­ity of Ford’s Ranger and Ever­est mod­els, both of which are built at the fa­cil­ity.

The in­vest­ment is mainly for the Ranger of course. In 2017, Ford has sold over 27,000 of them in SA and ex­ported even more, with 5,791 be­ing ex­ported in Oc­to­ber alone.

Rangers leave the Sil­ver­ton plant and head to 148 coun­tries, and de­mand is in­creas­ing.

The in­vest­ment is mainly for up­grad­ing in or­der to in­crease mod­erni­sa­tion on the pro­duc­tion lines and in­crease ca­pac­ity.

That fu­ture de­mand will in­clude the new Ranger Rap­tor, which will not only be the first of­fi­cial Rap­tor model to come to SA, but will also be the first Rap­tor to be built in SA when pro­duc­tion starts in 2019.

While Ford SA says it is un­able to com­ment, our sources have told us that the Rap­tor will be based on the up­graded Ranger which is due to be un­veiled in 2018.

The re­vised Ranger will fea­ture new sus­pen­sion, al­though Ford in­ter­na­tional has been so pro­tec­tive of the new setup that for the first time in au­to­mo­tive his­tory (as far as we know) it has cam­ou­flaged the sus­pen­sion on the pro­to­types.

We are also likely to see the in­tro­duc­tion of new EcoBoost en­gines, an en­hanced in­te­rior and re­vised styling.

The changes come as Ford has to take on the up­com­ing new Mercedes X-Class and Re­nault Alaskan, as well as the ex­ist­ing Nis­san Navara, all of which share the same plat­form.

The lat­est Mit­subishi Tri­ton is one of the most com­fort­able bakkies we have driven and Ford needs to con­tend with that too. So we ex­pect to hear much more about that car-like com­fort stuff when the new Ranger ap­pears. The ques­tion is whether those changes will also be trans­ferred into the Ever­est. So far we have heard noth­ing, but given that the SUV is based on the Ranger, it would make sense to see it up­graded too.

All of which brings me back to our long-term 2.2 diesel which is one of the mod­els that came off the Sil­ver­ton pro­duc­tion line.

It has con­tin­ued to do strong work in the ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment this past month, al­though un­like Ler­ato’s ef­forts with the Me­gane, im­prov­ing the con­sump­tion on the Ever­est is prov­ing much harder. In fact it has be­come a source of de­bate on the is­sue of over­worked lower ca­pac­ity en­gines ver­sus much big­ger lumps which can do the work with­out break­ing a sweat. That is a de­bate for an­other day.

It could be about to go through its big­gest test with us yet though.

With fam­ily vis­it­ing from over­seas, it will spend­ing a con­sid­er­able amount of time haul­ing three kids in child seats, four adults and as much stuff as we can squeeze into that small space be­hind the third row of seats.

Clever pack­ing is go­ing to be the or­der of the day, but surely this is one of the things the seven-seater Ever­est was de­signed and en­gi­neered to do. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how well it copes.

The Ever­est 2.2 is ac­tu­ally a proudly South African prod­uct.

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