Having announced a South African automotive industry investment record of R15.8 billion into production of the all-new Ranger back in March, Ford Motor Company Southern Africa has released a further R600 million into manufacturing and exporting of the new 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine from its Struandale Engine Plant in Gqeberha.
Aside from the bent-six, the first in the Ranger’s local history since the 4.0-litre V6 petrol from almost two decades ago, the investment will also go into the upgrading of the current assembly lines producing the single and bi-turbo 2.0-litre Panther units.
“The majority of the investment is going into expanding and modernising the current assembly line that has produced the existing 2.2 L and 3.2 L Duratorq TDCi engines since 2011, with 792,000 engines assembled to date,” the Blue Oval’s vice-president of operations, Ockert Berry, said in a statement.
He added that the investment would up engine production from the current 320 units per day to 445 units in order to meet not only local demand, but also international.
According to Berry, the introduction of the V6, reportedly the same 186kW/597Nm unit Dearborn offered in the F-150 until five months ago, will result in an additional 25 stations of assembly within the plant excluding the already implemented 40 the Panther units require.
Despite a capacity of 130,000 units a year, the V6 will have an initial annual run of 21,000 units per year when production kicks off next year, due in part, according to Ford, to allow for a better split between it and the four-cylinder Panther programme.
In addition, the plant, which has produced 3.8 million engines since opening in 1964 over 10 different programmes, of which 175,000 have been Panther units since 2019, will also be responsible for manufacturing and matching cylinder heads with the V6.
“The investment programme includes new equipment as well as retooling, upgrading and redeployment of existing machining operations for the cylinder head,” Berry continued.
“The machining line has an initial installed capacity of 42,000 cylinder heads per year for the V6 engine, but has also been designed to accommodate higher volumes in future, if necessary.”
Of the upgrades to the Panther line, Berry remarked: “The updates being introduced on this assembly line will facilitate greater complexity with additional derivatives of the 2.0-litre diesel engines being introduced, increasing the current nine derivatives to 13 when production commences for the next-gen Ranger in 2022.”
An area that remains unaffected are the 850 people employed at the plant, though improved optimisation will take place in order to compensate for the introduction of the V6 as well as the updated Panther units.
Training at the plant has meanwhile commenced in readiness for the middle of next year when the first Rangers are expected to depart from the Silverton Assembly line outside Pretoria.