By Tannur Anders
PRETORIA (Reuters) – The South African unit of U.S. auto giant Ford said on Wednesday it would invest 5.2 billion rand ($281 million) to produce a hybrid vehicle in the country, as it urged the government to move fast on an electric vehicle policy.
Three-quarters of cars produced by South Africa’s auto industry, which accounts for 5% of gross domestic product and over 100,000 jobs, are exported, mostly to European countries.
But with the UK and Europe banning the sale of new petrol cars from 2035, South Africa’s government has warned of an existential threat to the sector, and automakers have sought a government plan to transition to electric vehicles.
“The government really needs to finalise its policy and get it out there because other countries are moving fast, very fast,” Andrea` Cavallaro, Ford’s operations director of international market group, told Reuters.
In the meantime the company is focussed on producing hybrid vehicles – cars that can run on petrol like a regular internal combustion engine or ICE-driven vehicles and also run on electric charge.
Cavallaro was talking to Reuters on the sidelines of Ford celebrating 100 years of operations in South Africa and announcing an investment to produce the Ranger hybrid car.
The company said the investment would go into producing its Ranger Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, which will be rolled out from its factory in Pretoria from late 2024.
“What we have seen is just this rapid escalation of the adoption of new energy vehicle technologies,” President of Ford Motor Company in Africa Neale Hill told Reuters.
Ford plans to export about 70% of the 44,000 of the Ranger cars to Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Cavallaro said.
($1 = 18.4993 rand)
(Reporting by Tannur Anders; Editing by Promit Mukherjee and Josie Kao)