Electric Ford Ranger Lightning & Thunder Pickups Are Coming — Could South Africa Finally Get A Locally Assembled EV?

The automotive sector is a critical pillar of South Africa’s economy. The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA) says that Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) building cars and bakkies (pickups) employ more than 112,500 people in South Africa. These jobs are spread across the various parts of the ecosystem from component manufacturing right up to vehicle assembly, and also include the OEM’s supplier partners and dealerships.

According to NAAMSA’s website, when the entire value chain is considered, the industry’s strong multiplier effect results in more than half a million jobs across the South African economy’s formal sector. Overall, the automotive industry contributes 4.3% to South Africa’s GDP and makes up almost 20% of South Africa’s manufacturing output.

Vehicle sales in South Africa over the past 6 years:

South African market by fuel type, 2016 to 2021 Source: NAAMSA/Lightstone Auto

From the table above, we see that 99% of the vehicles sold in South Africa are still internal combustion engine vehicles. Besides local sales, a huge portion of vehicles assembled in South Africa are exported to Europe and other places. One of the popular export models is the Ford Ranger Pickup. By September of last year, Ford South Africa had exported over 500,000 locally assembled Ranger pickups, most of them being from the outgoing model that was assembled in Pretoria from 2011 up to early this year. A new generation internal combustion engine Ford Ranger will replace that very successful outgoing model in the fourth quarter of this year.

The problem now is that many nations that are currently the major destinations for South African assembled vehicles are progressively planning or enacting outright bans on new internal combustion vehicle sales, with some bans coming into effect as early as 2025. This means the South African automotive sector will need to move quite quickly to introduce some locally assembled electric vehicles to grow its export market share, or at the very least maintain its current market share in some of these markets.

South Africa hosts several vehicle assembly and component manufacturing plants. These include assembly plants for BMW, Mercedes, Toyota, and Ford. Given the Ford Ranger’s prominent role in South Africa’s exports, we hope that the upcoming electric Ford Ranger Lightning & Thunder models will be added to the Pretoria factory’s line-up for both the local and the export market.  If this were to happen, it would really give the South African automotive industry a major boost by bringing a model that could help future proof the industry.

One of the major enablers for South Africa to really grow, or at least maintain, its market share of vehicle exports to the UK and the European union will be to build a critical mass of a skilled workforce for the electric vehicle manufacturing industry. To help start growing this talent pool, the United Kingdom announced R3.7 million (£190,000) in funding for new skills development across South Africa for jobs in the fast-growing electric vehicle sector. The new support will fund research to ensure South African students are developing the mostly highly sought-after skills in the electric vehicle sector, as well as new online training content and support for lecturers.

If indeed the electric Ford Ranger Lightning & Thunder were to be assembled in South Africa, the assembly lines will be powered by some of the clean electricity from the newly commissioned 13.5 MW solar carport system. Ford South Africa’s assembly plant generates 35% of its electricity needs onsite from this massive carport system. The factory will offset a significant amount of CO2 from the electricity it consumes from South Africa’s predominantly coal-powered grid through a long term Power Purchase Agreement with SolarAfrica. The solar PV array will eliminate the equivalent of 20,072 tons of CO2 generated per annum, which is a major step towards achieving Ford’s carbon-free emissions targets by 2035.


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