Ford South Africa has announced that $281 million (USD) will be invested to produce the new plug-in hybrid Ford Ranger pickup truck at its plant in Pretoria. This will be a major boost for the local economy, building on Ford’s 100 years in South Africa. The plug-in hybrid Ranger will be exported to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and other markets. The Ford Ranger is one of the most popular vehicles in pickup-loving South Africa, alongside the Toyota Hilux and the Isuzu D-Max. Presumably, this new plug-in hybrid Ford Ranger will also be available in South Africa’s domestic market.
The Ranger Plug-in Hybrid combines a 2.3-liter Ford EcoBoost petrol engine with an electric motor and rechargeable battery system, delivering exceptional torque. This design also allows the vehicle to operate in pure electric mode, offering a targeted driving range of over 45 kilometres (approximately 28 miles).
The addition of the Ford Ranger Plug-in Hybrid to the list of vehicles that are manufactured or assembled in South Africa is a big step for the sector. I know plug-in hybrids divide opinions in many forums, but essentially all the vehicles that are made in South Africa are still pure ICE vehicles. The addition of this plug-in hybrid option to a popular model should help more people transition to electric vehicles. People who still have range anxiety issues and want a widely available pickup will now have an option to use one that has about 45 km of electric range. The other issue is that, globally, fully electric pickups are still not widely available and are limited in terms of both production volumes and the markets in which they are sold. A pickup truck like the Ranger even in just its PHEV form could play a role in helping consumers in the pickup market transition to electrified vehicles.
This move by Ford is even more important for the South African economy. South Africa is one of the main motor vehicle assembly and manufacturing hubs on the African continent. Vehicles are produced in South Africa for the local South African market, the regional markets on the African continent, and for export to countries on other continents, such as Europe. The motor vehicle and component production industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the South African economy. A substantial 21.7% of value addition within domestic manufacturing output was derived from vehicle and automotive component manufacturing in 2022, while the broader automotive industry’s contribution to GDP was 4.9% (2.9% manufacturing and 2.0% retail). South African automotive trade under the APDP2, amounting to R435 billion in 2022, comprised 16.5% of South Africa’s total trade GDP, up from 15.8% in 2021. As the world transitions to electric mobility, South Africa desperately needs to step up production of electric vehicles or else it will lose market share in key export markets that have deadlines for the sale of ICE new vehicles.
Ford joins BMW in bringing production of plug-in hybrids to Pretoria, Gauteng Province. Earlier this year, BMW announced that it is investing R4.2 billion ($223 million) for the new-generation X3 SUV, including a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) variant. The Pretoria plant will be the sole producer of this PHEV X3 for the global market. The addition of the PHEV Ford Ranger will mean that the local production of PHEVs in South Africa will increase again next year, building on the progress made this year. From January to September, the local production of PHEVs jumped almost five times, to 3,534 from January to September 2023 from 733 over the same period in 2022. This is a good step in the right direction.
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