July 17 Ford Motor Co announced 17 new
vehicles for Sub-Saharan Africa on Thursday, as carmakers jostle
for position in one of the last major markets where potential
growth remains largely untapped.
The models, among 25 to be introduced by 2016 in a broader
product offensive across the Middle East and Africa, draw on the
U.S. auto giant's global vehicle architectures to offer more
up-to-date features for markets such as South Africa.
"Middle East and Africa is the final frontier for global
automotive growth," Ford's regional chief Jim Benintende said.
"We're putting the infrastructure and people in place to
Western carmakers are showing renewed interest in Africa, in
some cases reviving previously abandoned manufacturing sites or
considering new ones. Chinese brands are also a growing presence
on the streets of cities such as Nairobi and Lagos.
On Wednesday, PSA Peugeot Citroen announced the
gradual resumption of car assembly in Nigeria, Africa's most
populous country, and said it may soon add a second and third
Total vehicle sales across the Middle East and Africa region
are expected to grow 40 percent by the end of the decade,
according to Ford's projections.
The planned model roll-out includes updated versions of the
Focus compact and Fusion large car, escorted by Ford's
resurrected Mustang sports car.
They bring a step up in fuel economy, touch-screen
connectivity and other features intended to hone Ford's
competitiveness against more spartan rivals in African markets.
At the start of this year, Ford created its Middle East &
Africa business unit in a region that includes 67 countries,
part of which until this year reported to Ford's Europe
operations, part to North America and part to Asia-Pacific.
Ford sold about 200,000 autos in the Middle East and Africa
in 2013, including a sales increase of 40 percent in South
Africa to 64,500 vehicles, its top market in the region. Its
second-biggest market in the region is Saudi Arabia, where it
sold 54,000 vehicles last year.
IHS Automotive consultancy said Ford was fifth in South
African auto sales last year with a 9 percent market share and
sixth in Saudi Arabia with a 4 percent market share.
But Ford's long-established South African manufacturing base
may yet be undermined by industrial unrest.
Ford was forced to halt one of its two plants in the country
this week as a wave of strikes that had crippled the mining
sector and broader economy spread to auto suppliers, with
workers seeking pay increases of 12 percent to 15 percent.
The stoppages have also hit General Motors, Toyota,
and Mercedes-Benz and may soon affect BMW
and Nissan unless resolved swiftly.
Ford regional chief Benintende has sought to play down
suggestions that unrest could ultimately force the Dearborn,
Michigan-based automaker to move production elsewhere.
(Reporting by Laurence Frost in Paris and Bernie Woodall in
Detroit; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)