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(Reuters) – 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.
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.
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 Europeoperations, 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.
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. [ID:nL6N0PP1L7]
The stoppages have also hit General Motors, Toyota, and Mercedes-Benz and may soon affect BMW and Nissan unless resolved swiftly.
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