While all current versions of New Zealand's top-selling vehicle, the Ford Ranger, are built in Thailand, the forthcoming plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version will switch things up and come from another part of the world entirely.
Ford has revealed that it is investing US$272 million (NZ$460 million) in its Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria, South Africa, for production of the first-ever Ranger PHEV, commencing in late 2024, and that it will be the source of PHEV Rangers for New Zealand and Australia.
The company says that the investment for the PHEV version of the Ranger incorporates a new battery pack assembly plant that is being constructed within the Silverton plant, while Ford’s Chassis Plant in the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone (TASEZ) is also being upgraded to accommodate "the unique chassis configuration for this model, including changes to the robots, welding equipment, control systems, conveyors and skids."
Along with the new battery facility and plant upgrades, Ford is also upgrading the Silverton plant's paint shop to further improve paint quality and first time through (FTT) for all vehicles produced in South Africa.
The Silverton Assembly Plant has an installed capacity to produce 720 vehicles per day over three shifts, or 200,000 vehicles per year.
Ford is currently celebrating its centenary in South Africa and employs approximately 5200 people in the country. The company says its South African operations support around 60,000 jobs in the total value chain amongst supplier companies and contributes more than 1 percent to South Africa’s GDP.
"The additional investment in the Silverton Assembly Plant for the Ranger Plug-in Hybrid takes our total manufacturing investment in South Africa over the past 14 years to around US$1.72 billion, or nearly R33 billion (NZ$2.9 billion),” says Andrea Cavallaro, Operations director, Ford International Markets Group.
"As with the current Ranger models, the new Ranger Plug-in Hybrid will be exported to Europe as part of our commitment to offer a wide range of powertrain options for customers in this important mid-size pickup segment,” Cavallaro says.
"For the first time in about two decades the Silverton plant will also be supplying vehicles to Australia and New Zealand, as it will be the source market for the Ranger Plug-in Hybrid for these countries."
The Ranger PHEV is due to start production late next year and is expected to hit New Zealand shores early in 2025.
The company still hasn't revealed a lot of technical details, but has confirmed the Ranger PHEV will use a 2.3-litre EcoBoost turbo-petrol four (already offered in the US as a Ranger engine option) and is targeting a 45km WLTP all-electric range for the plug-in battery pack and electric motor.
Unlike a lot of electrified vehicles, the Ranger PHEV will retain the 3500kg full towing and load capabilities of the standard Ranger, while Ford also says its hybrid powertrain will boast the most torque of any Ranger, meaning in excess of the current 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6's 600Nm.
The Ranger PHEV will also retain the standard Ranger's off-road capabilities, with the electric motor being integrated into the transmission, meaning it can be driven in 4WD even in full EV mode. A variety of drive settings will be offered to allow drivers to control and use the electric power in different ways.
One of those will be via the Pro Power Onboard system, which allows the Ranger to essentially become a portable generator on work sites and for remote weekend activities.
Power outlets will feature inside the cabin and around the tray, allowing owners to use and charge tools and other electrical items, and if the battery runs low, the system will then recharge it using the petrol engine.
While pricing and specification are yet to be announced, it is likely the PHEV will have broad application across the lineup, from work/rural utes to the high-end Wildtrak models favoured by urban buyers.