JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – The Middle East and Africa region represents the final frontier for global growth in the auto industry, and Ford is putting the right structure and people in place in order to bring a full family of vehicles that customers will want and value to the region.
That was at the heart of the message Stephen Odell, executive vice president and president, Ford of Europe, Middle East and Africa, conveyed during a recent business media roundtable in South Africa to discuss growth and opportunities in Africa.
It was Odell’s first interaction with South African media since the Middle East and Africa became Ford Motor Company’s fifth business unit. Emphasizing the company’s long-standing commitment to South Africa, Odell said the company is consolidating its efforts to allow for better coordination and growth. “We’ve invested here in our operations and our people, and as an integral part of our new Middle East and Africa region, we will continue to grow our presence in the country.”
Odell said the new business unit is intended to give the region the focus it deserves and to spearhead Ford’s continued growth in its emerging markets. “Africa is one of the youngest markets in the world, and presents huge opportunity in terms of consumption,” he said. Odell noted the importance of providing an affordable product offering to ensure sales growth.
Ford Middle East and Africa President Jim Benintende also participated in the roundtable, as did Jeff Nemeth, president and CEO, Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. Benintende shared his excitement over the challenge of creating a new business unit with a start-up mentality for a 110-year-old company, calling it a “once-in-a-career experience.”
He said sales in the region are expected to grow by 40 percent, to 5.5 million vehicles, in 2020. “Our growth will be good for Ford and our dealers, as well as for our growing number of customers and their local communities.”
Benintende emphasized that their priorities include supporting Ford’s dealer network throughout the Middle East and Africa to service customer needs.
Ford currently sells about 200,000 vehicles a year throughout the Middle East and Africa, which Odell noted consists of very diverse markets, culturally as well as economically. “Building a robust and profitable operation here requires a clear understanding of how to support these unique conditions and customer needs.”
South Africa is the most mature market in the new business unit. Nemeth says the One Ford plan has positioned the company for success elsewhere on the continent. “Through the best practice methods we’ve implemented here, we now have the skills, human capital and knowledge to contribute to our other African markets.”
Ford plans to introduce 17 new or refreshed vehicles in the region in the next 24 months, and expand parts accessibility and service support throughout the Middle East and Africa.
Odell, Benintende and Nemeth also met with employees and the Operating Committee at the Silverton Assembly Plant, which produces the Ford Ranger, discussing quality and other plant priorities. Ford employs approximately 3,100 people in South Africa. It exports vehicles to 148 countries and components to Argentina and Thailand.