FORD Motor Co. will start assembling its Ranger compact pickup at a new facility in Nigeria this year as the second-largest U.S. automaker seeks to take advantage of demand in Africa’s biggest economy.
Ford has formed a partnership with Coscharis Motors Ltd., a local distributor, to build the vehicles from body parts and components imported from South Africa, at a plant about 750 kilometers (466 miles) southwest of the capital Abuja, Jeff Nemeth, the head of Ford’s sub-Saharan African operations, said in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
The assembly plant, capable of assembling 5,000 trucks a year, is Ford’s second in Africa and will produce vehicles for sale in the Nigerian market.
The country’s large population and potential for economic growth, as well as government policies aimed at encouraging industrialisation, make it an an attractive market, Nemeth said in an interview on Tuesday.
Ford will also consider using the Nigerian plant to supply other West African countries, he said. “We’re going to have to watch how policy evolves, how free-trade zones evolve,” he said. “But we believe that the time is right to enter Nigeria to be on the right strategic footing looking into the future.”
Ford sold about 4,000 vehicles in Nigeria last year and is on pace for a similar level in 2015, Nemeth told reporters on Tuesday. The Ranger accounts for about 50% to 60% of the total, he said.
In South Africa, Ford produces the Ranger at an assembly plant in Pretoria and manufactures the Duratorq engine at a factory in Port Elizabeth. The Pretoria plant is running at full capacity, Nemeth said.
The Ford announcement will come as a big boost for Nigeria, whose currency the naira is under extreme pressure in the face of plummeting oil revenues, and which has seen upsurge in terror attacks by the militant group Boko Haram, since Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as president at the end of May.
-BLOOMBERG. Additional reporting by Mail & Guardian Africa.