Ford Motor Co. is investing $1.05 billion into the automaker’s Silverton, South Africa plant.
The upgrades will boost the site’s annual capacity by almost a fifth to 200,000 units and create about 1,200 direct jobs, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
“It’s the biggest investment in Ford’s 97-year history in South Africa and one of the largest ever in the local automotive industry,” said Andrea Cavallaro, operations director of Ford’s International Market Group during the announcement event.
The outlay will support the production of a new Ranger pickup truck starting in 2022, both for domestic sales and exports.
The move comes after Ford announced in January that it is ceasing production in Brazil after a century of building cars there, closing three factories and cutting 5,000 workers. The U.S.-based company also eliminated thousands of positions in Europe as part of a sweeping $11 billion global reorganization, and culled about 1,400 salaried employees in the U.S. in 2020.
Ford’s fresh investment and jobs will come as a welcome boost to South Africa, where almost a third of the workforce is unemployed. The country has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with lockdowns and a resurgence of infections weighing on activity, and 2020 economic output probably contracted the most in at least nine decades.
Production at the Silverton plant, which also makes the Everest SUV, will include VW pickups as part of a strategic alliance between the carmakers. The partnership agreement was signed in June, almost two years after it was first announced, and was eventually expanded to include electric and self-driving cars.
Ford also aims to make the Silverton plant entirely energy self-sufficient and carbon neutral by 2024, Cavallaro said. The moves will help keep the plant operating in the event of one of South Africa’s frequent power outages.