Ford Ranger Electric Lightning & Thunder Pickup Is Coming – Can South Africa Finally Get a Locally Assembled EV?

The automotive sector is an important pillar of the South African economy. The South African National Association of Automobile Manufacturers (NAAMSA) says that Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) that make cars and pickups employ more than 112,500 people in South Africa. This work is spread across different parts of the ecosystem from component manufacturing to vehicle assembly, and also includes supplier partners and OEM dealers.

According to the NAAMSA website, when the entire value chain is considered, the strong industry multiplier effect generates more than half a million jobs in the formal sector of the South African economy. Overall, the auto industry accounts for 4.3% of South Africa’s GDP and constitutes nearly 20% of South Africa’s manufacturing output.

Vehicle sales in South Africa for the last 6 years:

South African market by fuel type, 2016 to 2021 Source: NAAMSA/Lightstone Auto

From the table above, we see that 99% of vehicles sold in South Africa are still internal combustion engines. Apart from local sales, most vehicles assembled in South Africa are exported to Europe and elsewhere. One of the popular export models is the Ford Ranger Pickup. By September last year, Ford South Africa had exported more than 500,000 locally assembled Ranger pickups, most of the previous model assembled in Pretoria from 2011 to earlier this year. The Ford Ranger’s new generation internal combustion engine will replace the highly successful output model in the fourth quarter of this year.

The problem now is that many of the countries currently the main destinations for South African assembled vehicles are progressively planning or imposing outright bans on the sale of new internal combustion vehicles, with some bans coming into effect as early as 2025. This means South Africa’s auto sector will need to move pretty quickly. to introduce some locally assembled electric vehicles to increase its export market share, or at least maintain its current market share in some of these markets.

South Africa hosts several vehicle assembly and component factories. This includes assembly plants for BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, and Ford. Given the important role the Ford Ranger plays in South African exports, we expect the upcoming Ford Ranger Lightning & Thunder electric model to be added to the Pretoria plant lineup for both local and export markets. If this happens, it will really give the South African auto industry a big boost by bringing in a model that can help future-proof the industry.

One of the main drivers for South Africa to truly grow, or at least maintain, its share of the vehicle export market to the UK and the European Union is by building a large number of skilled workers for the electric vehicle manufacturing industry. To help kickstart this talent pool, the UK announced R3.7 million (£190,000) in funding for new skills development across South Africa for jobs in the fast-growing electric vehicle sector. The new support will fund research to ensure South African students develop the most sought-after skills in the electric vehicle sector, as well as new online training content and support for lecturers.

If indeed the electric Ford Ranger Lightning & Thunder is to be assembled in South Africa, the assembly line will be powered by some clean electricity from the newly commissioned 13.5 MW solar carport system. Ford’s South Africa assembly plant generates 35% of its electricity needs on site from this massive carport system. The plant will offset large amounts of CO2 from the electricity it consumes from the coal-fired power grid in South Africa through a long-term Power Purchase Agreement with SolarAfrica. The solar PV array will remove the equivalent of 20,072 tonnes of CO2 produced per year, which is a major step towards achieving Ford’s carbon-free emissions target by 2035.


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