Someone at Ford Motors (I don’t remember who, it’s been many months) said, “There is no point showing off our new 2.2L Ford Ranger to you gentlemen if you don’t see how we manufacture them.”
He was addressing a bunch of motoring journalists (I’m not one, but I acted like one by asking a pretentious question about ‘handling’).
So we were shipped off to their manufacturing plant at Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria East, South Africa, an obscenely massive and dutiful plant opened in 1967, spanning some 279 acres and employing thousands of people.
The fully automated plant that had sunk an investment of Sh20.5 billion in Ford’s local operations for the Everest and Ranger production programmes makes about 400 Ford Ranger units a day.
In August 2016, the Ford Ranger had their best month that year with some 8,548 locally assembled units leaving South Africa port to markets in the rest of Africa, Europe and the Middle East; 148 markets.
With our hard hats and our safety clothing we watched as the long arms of the robots lifted, inserted, aligned, wedged, polished, pushed all these parts that eventually produced a gleaming Ford Ranger all in a matter of minutes. The Ford executives stood by leaning on the tall mast of their proud smiles— and deservedly so.
The next morning we hopped off the plane at George, a city in the West Cape of South Africa, halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
The city is cast on a 10-kilometre plateau between the Outeniqua Mountains to the north and the Indian Ocean to the south. People like to use the word “picturesque” to describe very normal landscape. That adjective should be reserved for the landscape of George.
Mountains rose and plunged as roads wound around them like dark necklaces. The landscape was green at one point then brown at another then sexy the next. This is where we took the Ford Ranger to test it mettle.
There, up winding roads and off these roads to gravel tracks and to a sandy dunes by the ocean and through pools of streams gushing through valleys, we quickly recognised the personality of the vehicle.
First, Ford Ranger looks— to use an American euphemism for tough “badass.” The design team built it for toughness and with these outboard nostrils features that maintain its excellent aerodynamics features.
However, there are trucks that look tough but whimper when put to the test. Ford Ranger isn’t one of them. In water for instance, with its wading depth at 800mm and ground clearance at 230mm it felt like if we slapped a mast on it, it could boat off to India if given half a chance.
You also realise quickly that apart from its sturdiness, the Ford Ranger also brings a level of comfort and finesse to its segment. It can go from the city to the bush without losing its mojo.
“It [the car] represents a smarter kind of tough,” said Tracey Delate, the general manager, marketing, Ford Motor sub-Saharan Africa.
Or in other words — beauty and brawn.