Automotive company Ford Motor Company on December 2 announced an investment of R600-million into its Struandale engine plant, in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth).
This investment will support the launch of a new 3 litre V6 turbodiesel engine, as well as upgrades to the existing assembly line for the 2 litre single turbo and 2 litre bi-turbo diesel engines, which will be offered in the company’s recently unveiled next-generation Ford Ranger pick-up, slated to launch next year.
The announcement was made during a media site visit to the Struandale engine plant. Speaking at the event, Ford South Africa operations VP Ockert Berry said the investment was part of the company’s drive to modernise and enhance its local operations and that it would showcase the quality of South Africa’s manufacturing capabilities, with quality products for both the local and export markets.
This investment follows Ford’s R15.8-billion investment into the Silverton assembly plant and supplier tooling, that was announced in February to support production of the next-generation Ranger.
Through the R600-million investment, Ford is introducing a third diesel engine to the Struandale operations, with the new 3 litre V6 turbodiesel engine to power selected next-generation Ranger models when production begins next year.
The majority of the investment will be used to expand and modernise the current assembly line that has produced the existing 2.2 litre and 3.2 litre Duratorq TDCi engines since 2011.
Milestones from this line include 792 000 engines assembled to date, for both South Africa and various export markets.
Moreover, Ford Struandale engine plant manager Shawn Govender highlighted that, to date, the plant has produced more than 3.81-million engines, comprising ten different engine programmes, since opening in 1964.
Production of the 2 litre single turbo and bi-turbo four-cylinder turbodiesel engines has hit the 175 000-unit mark since it was launched in 2019 for the current Ranger pick-up.
The extensive changes to this assembly line would enable the Struandale engine plant to run a flexible format, as it will produce the new 3 litre V6 turbodiesel engine alongside the Duratorq TDCi engines.
There are 40 stations on the line that will be common to both engines, with a further 25 stations unique to the 3 litre V6.
The plant will have a yearly installed capacity of 21 000 units of the 3 litre V6 turbodiesel engine when production begins in mid-2022.
The combined installed capacity for this line is 130 000 engines a year. However, it has been designed to allow the split between the two engine programmes to be adjusted based on future demand.
The plant will encompass Ford’s production technologies, including the latest tooling along with advanced camera and transponder systems that are fully integrated into Ford’s global Quality Management System, as used in its modern assembly line for the 2 litre single turbo and 2 litre bi-turbo engines.
Berry explained that this would allow the company to record and validate every step of the assembly operations to capture the entire history of each engine, to ensure quality control.
Further to the assembly operations, the Struandale engine plant will also be responsible for machining the cylinder heads for the 3 litre V6 diesel engine.
The investment programme includes new equipment, as well as retooling, upgrading and redeployment of existing machining operations for the cylinder head.
The machining line has an initial installed capacity of 42 000 cylinder heads a year for the V6 engine and it has also been designed to accommodate higher volumes in future should demand necessitate.
Further to the new 3 litre V6 engine programme, Ford is modernising and upgrading the existing assembly line for the 2 litre single turbo and 2 litre bi-turbo engines to accommodate design changes for the next-generation Ranger.
Moreover, the updates being introduced on this assembly line would facilitate greater complexity with additional derivatives of the 2 litre diesel engines being introduced, increasing the current nine derivatives to 13 when production begins for the next-generation Ranger in 2022.
Installed production capacity for this assembly line remains at 120 000 units a year.
While the number of people employed at the Struandale engine plant remains unchanged at about 850, the employees allocated to the various machining and assembly lines will be optimised to support the required production volumes for all three engine programmes, thereby ensuring local job stability.
Plant employees are undergoing extensive training on the new 3 litre V6 diesel, as well as on the updated 2 litre diesel engines, to ensure efficient production start-up for Job 1 in mid-2022.