Ford Motor Company has a long and exceptionally proud history in South Africa spanning 93 years. This rich automotive legacy began with the historic Model T in 1923, and extends to the current and extremely successful Ford Ranger, as well as the sophisticated new Everest which commenced local production in October 2016.
“Ford played an important role in providing mobility for South Africa in the founding years of the automotive industry, and this legacy continues today as it remains one of the key players in the domestic market while driving the development and growth of the sector across Africa,” says Neale Hill, Director, Marketing, Sales & Service – Ford Motor Company Sub-Saharan Africa Region.
“From the ground-breaking Model T to the trend-setting new Ranger and Everest, Ford’s South African operations have become truly globally competitive, enabling us to produce our most complete and compelling range ever,” Hill adds.
“Henry Ford’s pioneering spirit is just as relevant today as it was during the company’s formative years, and is led by industry-defining developments in our award-winning EcoBoost engines, smart technologies such as SYNC®3 and our drive to develop the advanced mobility solutions of the future.”
As the inventor of the integrated moving assembly line in 1913, just 10 years after Ford Motor Company was incorporated, Henry Ford certainly revolutionised automobile mass production. This game-changing innovation ultimately reduced the Model T chassis assembly process from 12.5 hours to a mere 1.5 hours, thus precipitating a revolution in manufacturing.
Accordingly, the speed with which Ford could produce cars enabled the pricing of the Model T to be reduced from $825 in 1909 to just $260 by 1925, thus living up to Ford’s vision of producing an affordable and reliable car for the masses.
“I will build a car for the great multitude,” Ford famously said. “It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one.”
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And so it proved, with more than 15-million Model Ts sold by the time production ended in May 1927, making it one of the best-selling vehicles of all time, and certainly one of the most significant famous cars in the world. Appropriately, it was named Car of the Century in 1999.
South Africa played an important role in this success, with the first Ford, the original Model A, imported in 1904 – just a year after the company was founded in Detroit. The following year Arkell & Douglass in Port Elizabeth were appointed as the agents for Ford, importing the subsequent Model types including the C, F, K, N, R, S and, of course, the famous Model T.
In November 1923, Ford Motor Company of South Africa (FMCSA) was founded as a subsidiary of Ford of Canada – the latter responsible for exporting vehicles and assembly kits to Commonwealth countries from 1904.
FMCSA opened its first local assembly plant in a converted wool store in Port Elizabeth in 1924, producing Model Ts from parts imported from Canada. This became Ford’s 16th assembly plant outside of North America, and the first assembly line in Africa. The same year, Ford reached a total production milestone of 10-million vehicles.
In 1930, Ford commissioned a new factory in Port Elizabeth, covering nearly 12 acres, at a cost of over R2-million at the time. Ford’s Neave vehicle assembly plant followed in 1948, along with the Struandale Engine Plant which was officially opened by Henry Ford II in 1964. This facility celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, and currently produces the advanced 2.2 and 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCi components and engines for the global Ford Ranger and Everest programmes.
FMCSA’s Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria commenced operations in 1967 and ultimately became the company’s headquarters, which it remains today. This facility produces the Ford Ranger, which is exported to more than 148 markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The fruits of its most recent R2.5-billion investment saw local production kicking off on 4 October 2016, for the Ford Everest sport utility vehicle, both for the domestic market and also for export to countries across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Over the years Ford churned out a bevy of trend-setting models, including the Anglia (1960), Cortina Mk1 (1962), Escort (1968), Capri (1969) and Cortina Mk2 (1973), followed by the later Sierra/Sapphire, Laser, P-100 pick-up, the locally designed and developed Bantam half-tonner and the various generations of Ranger.
The company produced its millionth vehicle in 1976, its two-millionth vehicle in 1993, and hit the three-million-mark in 2013 with the Ford Ranger.