Business Maverick


Rough and tough: A Ford Ranger offensive

Rough and tough: A Ford Ranger offensive
Last year’s biggest-selling second-hand brand was the Ford Ranger. (Photo: Ford SA)

Not only has the Ford Ranger dominated both the export, new and used bakkie market during the pandemic, but global Ford has announced a significant investment of R10.3-billion into South Africa’s Covid-emptied tank.

If I was asked to award a local motoring company a badge for “The Most Proactive Automobile Company in the Time of Covid” when it comes to getting product out there, hosting events and launches in a world restricted by crowd size, curfews and physical distancing, my vote would probably go to Ford Motor Company SA. 

While most opted to launch digitally (which somehow defeats the purpose of a real-life test drive), Ford quickly saw the opportunity to get media to safely drive their products  by sending us on partner launches during strict lockdown last year, when we were forced to remain in the bubble of our homes with only ourselves or immediate family to vent on. 

Ford EcoSport Ambiente. (Photo: Ford SA)

My first outing from Covid-imposed prison was in September last year in the new Ford EcoSport 1.5 Ambiente Auto – a weekend away with my boyfriend. It came at a perfect time as cabin fever was putting some serious pressure on our pandemic-battered love nest. You know the old adage – “familiarity breeds contempt”. I think it was Chaucer who coined it back in 1386. It’s never been more valid almost 700 years later. 

It felt like we’d escaped Alcatraz as we headed for the West Coast town of Paternoster in our Ford. It took just two days to inject much needed romance into our lockdown-compromised war zone. 

A few weeks later, like two naughty kids who had escaped detention, we found ourselves heading out for a weekend in Touwsrivier in our new Ford Ranger Thunder. Freedom never tasted so sweet. 

The Ranger Thunder. (Photo: Ford SA)

Ford was not letting up on real life experiences. An invitation to take a road trip with a group of women under the hashtag #RangeHer soon saw me masked and sanitised, test driving the cream of the crop of Rangers through the Baviaanskloof in the mighty Ford Raptor, the Wildtrak and the new Thunder. 

Then just as I was about to close the garage for the year, I travelled on 1 December to Mpumalanga and Limpopo on some hectic off-road routes in the new value-for-money double cab Ranger XLT. 

I missed the launch of Ford’s SVI armoured protection for Rangers in late January, despite being a diehard when it comes to travelling. I was a tad nervous to fly with the new Covid-19 variant lurking. 

However, at the beginning of March, on the day South Africa went on to Level 1, Ford was back on the ball, hosting a media road trip along the Wild Coast to launch the new Ranger FX4 and the freshly released FordPass Connect app. 

The Ranger FX4. (Photo: Ford SA)

First introduced to the local market in 2017, the 2021 FX4 (which is locally assembled and exported to over 100 global markets) is based on the 2.0-litre Single Turbo XLT Double Cab. Matched to a 10-speed auto transmission, the FX4 is more than adequately powered by its 2.0 litre turbo engine, producing 132kW and 420Nm torque. It’s available in both 4×2 and 4×4 derivatives. 

What impressed me along the coastal Eastern Cape tarred and off-road routes was the FX4’s excellent 4×4 capability, which came as no surprise as Rangers are built for rough and tough terrain. 

There’s an electronic diff lock on both the 4×4 and 4×2 derivatives as well as additional safety and drive assist features like Adaptive Load Control, Trailer Sway Control, Hill Launch Assist, ABS and Emergency Brake Assist, while the 4×4 model gets extra off-road ammo by way of Hill Descent Control. 

Up-market interior in the FX4. (Photo: Ford SA)

But the new toughie is also pretty sweet on the eye, with its LEDs, 18-inch alloys and black mesh grille that’s also found on the Thunder. Inside, the cabin is decidedly up-market with a soft-touch leather-trimmed dashboard set off by snazzy red stitching. The seats, steering wheel and gear lever are all leathered up, too. Standard spec includes a rear-parking camera, front and rear sensors, and dual-zone climate control. 

Ford has always impressed with their intuitive infotainment setup since it launched SYNC back in 2007. The FX4 maintains the tradition with its latest SYNC3 system, which operates via an 8-inch colour touch screen that’s Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatible. 

Talking of tech, we got to play with the FordPass Connect app on our trip. 

Somewhat late to the personalised app party – both VW (WeConnect Go) and Toyota (MyToyota) launched theirs in 2020 – the FordPass app is nevertheless impressive. Along with all the standard stuff you’d expect from a personalised app, like specific vehicle, dealership and service info, by using the app on your smartphone, you can start your vehicle remotely and heat it up or cool it down before embarking on a trip. 

Affording media the opportunity to get hands-on experience with new products has clearly had a positive effect on Ford Ranger sales, both in the new and used car market. Despite the disastrous effects of Covid-19 on the economy, which saw a 29.1% drop in vehicle sales in 2020, a total of 18,846 new Ford Rangers were sold last year, placing it among the overall top three models on the sales charts. 

With the midyear introduction of the Thunder and the more affordable Ranger XL Sport in October, the Ranger recorded peak sales in September (2,188 units), October (2,203) and November (2,100), and by year end, it had come in just behind the Toyota Hilux in the highly competitive light commercial vehicle (LCV) South African market. 

Ford Motor Company SA also strategically refreshed their XLT, Wildtrak, Thunder and Ranger Raptor models last year, to make them even more attractive to bakkie-obsessed customers. 

The Ranger Raptor. (Photo: Ford SA)

Ford’s Ranger offensive has clearly also worked in the used vehicle segment.  In AutoTrader’s annual Car Industry Report, the Ranger was the overall top-selling used vehicle, contributing 4.7% of all used cars sold in SA. It attracted 8.3 million searches online, coming in as the fifth most searched vehicle between July 2019 and June 2020. 

On the export front, the Ranger remained the country’s top LCV export for 2020, with 45,790 Rangers produced at Ford’s Silverton assembly plant. 

The recent announcement of a R10.3-billion ($686-million) global investment into upgrades and new facilities at the Ranger-producing  Silverton plant, could not have come at a better time. Ford is set to hire an additional 1,200 people to support expanded production – planned to kick off in 2022 – bringing its workforce in South Africa to 5,500 employees. 

Ten thousand jobs will additionally be created across Ford’s local supplier network. The Silverton plant is also set to become one of the first global Ford plants to become entirely energy self-sufficient and carbon neutral by 2024.

This monumental investment in South Africa is the largest by Ford in its 97 year history – it began operations here in 1924. Local production of the Ranger contributes over 1% to South Africa’s annual GDP, so one can imagine this investment will inject much-needed new blood into our battered economy. 


  • 2.0 Single Turbo FX4 10AT 4×2 – R618,900
  • 2.0 Single Turbo FX4 10AT 4×4 – R687,900

All Ranger models come standard with a four-year/120,000km comprehensive warranty, three-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and five-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty. A six-year/90,000km service plan is included, with 15,000km service intervals.


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