Ford has announced a fresh $1,05-billion (R15,8-billion) investment into its South African operations, with the next-generation Ranger bakkie confirmed for local production.

Andrea Cavallaro, director of operations for Ford International Markets Group, made the announcement during a press briefing at the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ), which is located adjacent to Ford’s Silverton assembly plant.

The investment includes R10,3-billion for "extensive" upgrades to the Silverton factory, with production volume set to increase from the current 168 000 units a year to more than 200 000 units. Ford says the upgrades will include the construction of a new body shop and a new “high-tech” stamping plant, both of which will be located on-site for the first time.

"Extensive upgrades" will likewise be made to the box line, paint shop and final assembly to "improve vehicle flow within the plant", while the container and vehicle yards will also be expanded. A further R5,5-billion will be invested in vendor tooling at Ford’s major supplier factories.

Cavallaro said the investment would result in an additional 1 200 “incremental” jobs, taking Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa’s employee total to 5 500 people. In addition, an estimated 10 000 new jobs are expected to be created across Ford’s local supply chain.

It is described as the “biggest investment in Ford’s 97-year history in South Africa and one of the “largest-ever investments in the South African automotive industry”. The next-generation Ranger will again be sold locally as well as exported to more than 100 global markets.

“This investment will further modernise our South African operations, helping them to play an even more important role in the turnaround and growth of our global automotive operations, as well as our strategic alliance with Volkswagen,” said Dianne Craig, president for Ford’s International Markets Group.

“Ranger is one of our highest volume, most successful global vehicles. This investment will equip our team with the tools and facilities to deliver the best Ford Ranger ever, in higher numbers and with superior quality.”

Neale Hill, managing director at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa, added the investment “underscores our ongoing commitment to deliver ever-better vehicles to our customers in South Africa and around the world, while providing opportunities for our own employees, new team members and our communities”.

As a reminder, the next-gen Volkswagen Amarok will be produced alongside the next Ranger at Ford’s assembly plant in Silverton from 2022. The Blue Oval firm is the lead partner on the project.