Ford Motor Co. is intending an expansion of its manufacturing sites in Africa, as it launches new models like the Mustang and expects industry-wide sales to surge 40 percent by 2020. Jim Benintende, Ford’s head of operations in the Middle East and Africa, told Bloomberg in an interview that “everything is pointing toward a surge” in the African economy.
He remarked that Ford has heightened its focus in Africa, similar to moves made by other major US corporations such as General Electric Co. GE recently disclosed to spend $2 billion in Africa by 2018 and double its workforce in the region.
Benintende, who was tapped to manage Ford’s operations in Africa, is currently formulating a regional growth strategy for chief executive Mark Fields. His plans entail increasing the number of factories that Ford has in Africa, with Nigeria being considered as possible location, Benintende said.
Ford already operates two plants in South Africa. He said that Fields is leading the charge, saying, “Tell me what I need to do for you to make this all work.” The auto market in Africa is growing at a rapid pace.
In fact, Ford expects industry-wide sales to surge to 2.1 million vehicles in the next six years, from just 1.5 million in 2013. Likewise, Africa’s driving-age population is expected to hike 55 percent to 840 million people by 2023, from 540 million in 2013.
Benintende said, however, admitted that Africa remains a difficult place to do business, citing the Ebola virus outbreak in Liberia and Sierra Leone as well as the civil unrest in Nigeria. “It’s going to be a rocky road for a bit of time,” Benintende told Bloomberg.
He, however, said that the company has taken the long-term view in places like Nigeria, which is the largest economy in Africa. He noted that the country has abundant natural resources as well as a burgeoning middle class. [source: automotive news - sub. required]