Dipped in blue

Ford is one of the largest brands in the Southern African automotive landscape and its most popular products are without a doubt the locally produced Ford Ranger and Everest. Now with the next generation Everest and Ranger on the horizon, Ford is looking to expand production, improve their product and help the Ford brand strengthen its reach and influence in the South African market.

All new manufacturing-plant

Henry Ford is the pioneer of the assembly line. His innovative work laid the foundation for what the modern automotive assembly plant is, cementing the philosophy of innovation within Ford. Fast forward over 100 years, and the term innovate remains the cornerstone of the brand’s DNA.  

Starting back in February 2021, Ford broke ground with a $1.05-Billion (US) investment to upgrade its existing assembly plant. “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 of 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.”

With the first local unveiling of the long-awaited next-gen Ranger and Everest, the media could see the amount of work that has been done first-hand. Ford South Africa has made some significant upgrades to the existing plant and some new additions to ensure a “just in time” process for streamlined manufacturing. One of the major additions is Ford’s very own stamping plant and an entirely new body shop designed especially for the new Ranger and Everest. The new body shop and stamping plant utilises some of the world’s most high-tech robotic technology and is located on sight for the first time.

“As part of our extensive investment in the Silverton plant, we are also building a new Ford-owned and operated chassis line in the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ),” said Ockert Berry, vice president, Operations, for Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa, adding that this plant development will lead to at least 1 200 new jobs. “Having this new line and our major component suppliers located adjacent to the Silverton plant in the TASEZ is key to expanding our production capacity, as parts will be sequenced directly onto the assembly line,” Berry said. “This will significantly reduce logistics costs and complexity, improve efficiency and allow us to build more Rangers for our customers.”

Ford is also working closely with Transnet to develop a high-capacity rail freight corridor, a full-service line that will link the Silverton Assembly Plant and the TASEZ with Gqeberha, which is home to Ford’s Struandale Engine Plant and the Coega Special Economic Zone. In addition, the new solar car lots for nearly 4200 cars will allow the plant to enter “island mode” by 2035, which means that all electricity used by the plant will be produced on-site. The assembly plant will be completely carbon neutral by 2050.

These upgrades will allow Ford South Africa’s Silverton plant to produce 200 000 units per year, nearly 40 000 more than the current 160 000 units which allows the local manufacturer to export their product to 100 countries worldwide. In short, a new Ranger or Everest will be “born” every two minutes which tally up to over 700 units per day!

The Struandale Engine Plant in Gqeberha also received some love in the form of a R600-million investment as part of the revamping of their vehicle manufacturing process. Most of the investment in the plant is going into expanding and modernising the current assembly line that has produced the existing 2.2-litre and 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCi engines since 2011, with 792 000 engines assembled to date. The investment will also allow the plant to manufacture the new 3.0 V6 diesel engines, which will make their debut in the next-generation Ford Ranger and Everest. The newly upgraded plant will also manufacture the 2.0-litre bi-turbo and single turbo variants.  

The dipped in blue mindset

But while high quality manufacturing is imperative to the brand’s success, the company also realised that the customer experience must meet the same stringent standards. As such, Ford has revamped their owner experience to make buying, owning and maintaining a Ford as easy and intuitive as possible. This “Dipped in Blue” owner experience  revolves around  eight stages:

Ford Sales & Service Experience:

The first stage of the new ford sales experience is embracing the new digital age and allowing Ford buyers to have an always-on, personalised relationship with products and services. Their goal is to treat the consumer like family and give every Ford dealership a homey feel.

Ranger and Everest Experts:

Buying a new vehicle can be a daunting task, especially when gathering the necessary information to ensure an intelligent purchase. The website might not have all the information you as a consumer need before making that big decision. Ford has employed a team of Ranger and Everest experts – to be trained by the Ford Academy – in  the Customer Relationship Centre to provide a friendly voice and personal touch to remedy this issue. They will always be accessible via the customer’s preferred channels, providing  all the information you need before making the purchase.

Master Your Vehicle:

After improving their buying experience, the focus will then shift to  improving the overall owning experience. The FordPass app will allow you to manage your vehicle remotely, thanks to an embedded modem connecting the vehicle to you and your preferred dealer. The app takes customer connectivity to a new level, kickstarting the onboarding journey with access to rich, relevant content and literally putting vital real-time information from the owner’s vehicle in their hand.

The app also helps owners through their journey, allowing them to be remote start their vehicles and control the temperature to ensure you get into cool or warm comfort (depending on the weather).  Additional functions of the FordPass include letting customers know where their vehicle is at any time, allowing them to lock and unlock their car remotely via their cell phone. The app will also notify you when the alarm is triggered. And as a bonus, the online owner’s portal enables customers to self-learn everything there’s to know about their Ranger and/or Everest.

Customer Service Convenience Initiatives:  

Ford believes it’s vital to understand the customer’s unique requirements and ensure more flexibility, speed, and options. The new servicing experience starts with the online service bookings on www.myfordjourney.co.za website. It also introduces free collection and delivery of the vehicle as well as provision of Ranger like-for-like loaner should there be any repairs that might take a while.

Ford understands the speedy nature of modern life and offers an Express Service for those customers with a busy schedule. It’s a unique offering that promises to get your vehicle back on the road in just 60 minutes. In Addition, Ford will be introducing a mobile service station, taking the service to the clients. Initially conceived for fleet customers within rural areas, mobile servicing will also become available for general retail customers. And finally, Ford’s Pro Service Elite Programme will ensure minimal downtime for fleet customers, with after-hours and 60-minute express servicing, which mobile crews can do on-site.

Worry-Free Vehicle Health:

Ford is also working hard to establish a closer relationship with dealers and customers alike to reduce downtime associated with maintenance and repair by combining the intelligence of connected vehicle data with the convenience of FordPass. In addition, the next-gen Ranger and Everest will feature over-the-air module updates, meaning that customers won’t need to schedule a service for certain system upgrades of the vehicle’s embedded modem.

Unscheduled Vehicle Downtime:  

There is nothing worse than having a vehicle that you rely on fail. However, Ford’s new Dipped In Blue philosophy does make provisions for unscheduled downtime. A cross-functional team, empowered to make informed decision to help both dealer and customer, willwork proactively with dealers. 

The new system will also feature a Customer Progress Tracker, which will provide ongoing updates and transparent communication between the Customer Relationship Centre and the dealer. This will mean that your vehicle downtime will be as little as a possible inconvenience to the customer, allowing for arrangements to be made regarding alternative transport and the reimbursement for expenses incurred.

Customer Retention and Renewal:

To ensure they retain their loyal customers, Ford has started a 3-in-1 plan named the Ford Protect Plan, which covers a variety of options, including  cover for wear and tear items, mechanical and electrical repair, and premium maintenance. The Ford Protects Plans are backed entirely and exclusively by Ford genuine parts and will be used to maintain your vehicle.

Sponsorship:  

The final part dipped in blue is sponsorship and in South Africa this mean a continuation of the The Ford Wildlife Foundation sponsorship. Going  above and beyond to fight for conservation and the environment, Ford has donated 12 Rangers and  loaned 28 4×4 Ranger double cabs to help with education, research, and, most importantly, conservation.

Another crucial part of their sponsorship portfolio is their commitment to motorsport. In South Africa, the name of the game is Rally Raid, previously known as Cross Country Racing. Ford South Africa, alongside the Neil Woolridge Motorsport team, is competing in the South African Rally-Raid Championship within the highly competitive FIA T1+ segment with its new Ranger, with the view to potentially take on the world’s toughest race, the Dakar.

 

The new Products are on the horizon

Of course, the new and advanced facility and the complete revamp of Ford’s aftermarket support network are all in preparation for the next-gen Ford Ranger and Everest, which we saw in the metal for the first time.  

Set to make a splash in the local market, the excitement around the next-gen Ranger and Everest have been growing and hyped up with various reveals and teasers. Seeing it in the metal, I’m glad to report that all the hype is well deserved.  Pictures don’t do the new Everest and Ranger justice. This is an extremely good looking bakkie and SUV. Unlike the previous generations, these genuinely feel like an American product rather than international products from an American brand. The  striking and aggressive lines call back to the classic F-150 and both the bakkie and SUV look a lot more like their larger American siblings. We love it!

However, it is essential to know that the Ranger and Everest weren’t designed for the sprawling metropolitans of the US but rather for the cruel and unforgiving Australian Outback and the most rural of parts of Africa – great news for the South African off-road community! Furthermore, Ford emphasised that these two vehicles were designed by overlanders for overlanders and customer feedback from a variety of markets played a critical part in the development of the next-generation vehicles.

The Ford Ranger and Everest will be available with many power unit options, the most apparent being the all-new and locally produced 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Alongside this new engine, the Ranger and Everest will also be available with some familiar power units such as the bi and single turbo 2.0-litre diesel, which is currently available in the current ranger lineup. In addition, the pair will also be available with a tried and tested 2.3-litre petrol EcoBoost four-cylinder which has been used across the world.

We still don’t know how the new Everest and Ranger will be priced, but we do know the first ones will roll of the new Silverton Plant Assembly plant by August. We can’t hardly wait.

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