By Bennett Oghifo
Ford Motors South Africa recently presented the on and off road capabilities of the new Ranger- XLTand Wildtrak – during a launch of these mean machines for journalists from sub-Saharan Africa.
The Ford Ranger will be in Nigeria soon, courtesy of Coscharis Motors, sole representative of the automaker in the country.
The new XLT and Wildtrak Ranger are easily city SUVs that do not in any way wear the looks of the traditional workhorse. The gleaming machines glided through the streets of George onto the gravel roads and up the Outeniqua Mountains, using the winding tracks once treaded by the wagons of the early Dutch people that settled in these parts.
These are rarely used tracks and it was left for the journo-drivers to turn a switch to change from easy terrain driving modes to 4×4 mode to enable them pave their way, guiding the XLT and Wildtrak Ranger over rocks and stones, avoiding sharp-pointed rocks on their right and very deep canyon on the left. There were no ugly incidences, fortunately, and the convoy reached the top of the Mountain where Ford had its camp. The drive went further through the tortuous paths to Louvain Guestfarm, a tranquil working farm in the upper Langkloof valley. After the climb, the Rangers performed seamless movement down the mountain and off to George city. Oh, there is still the charred remains of the once lush vegetation of the Outeniqua Mountains caused by the unfortunate wildfires of last year.
Ford said, with the launch of the New Ranger for 2019, it has raised the bar further in the ultra-competitive light commercial vehicle (LCV) segment. Featuring an extensive range of mechanical, technological, feature and comfort upgrades, the new line-up will make the Ranger an even more compelling choice amongst workhorse and leisure-oriented pick-up customers, the automaker said.
“The current Ranger has been a fantastic success story for Ford in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is the leading LCV export to markets in Europe, the Middle East and the rest of Africa,” says Doreen Mashinini, General Manager Marketing at Ford Motor Company Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) Region.
“The New Ranger introduces fresh exterior and interior design cues that build on its ‘tough truck’ image, complemented by the adoption of new technologies that further bolster the Ranger’s established reputation for supreme safety, convenience and comfort,” she adds.
The model line-up has been revised for New Ranger, with the new XLS series slotting in above the entry-level Base and XL versions. The XLS offers superb value for money along with an impressive list of standard features. The Ranger Limited makes way for an enhanced XLT specification in SSA, and the range is topped off as usual with the exclusive and luxuriously appointed Ranger Wildtrak.
Tough, modern design
Continuing the Ranger’s proven ‘Built Ford Tough’ heritage, the assertive styling of the 2019 model delivers an even more powerful presence on the road. The latest model offers the opportunity to provide greater differentiation in the series. Accordingly, the front-end design of the popular XLT series has been updated to have a more horizontal feel, with the centre grille bar now divided into two, giving it a more precise and well-crafted look.
The lower bumper also presents a sense of solidity and strength through the centre beam that runs into the outer fog lamp areas. With a wider lower grille the new bumper complements and harmonises well with new front end. The same design execution has been applied to XL and XLS variants.
The very popular Wildtrak, which now comes with HID headlamps and LED daytime running lights, has been intentionally kept more familiar with the vertical aspect ratio grille that also incorporates the ‘nostrils’ in its design. Along with a split centre bar and additional venting holes for cooling, the new design is more aggressive in its application but remains true to the Wildtrak DNA.
The Wildtrak lower bumper surface is more chiselled than before, again reinforcing its ‘tough truck’ image with a wider lower grille and silver accented skid plate. The larger, more aggressive fog lamp bezels are pushed further outboard, again accentuating width and incorporating LED fog lamps that give a greater level of distinction for the Wildtrak.
A striking new Saber Orange exterior colour makes its debut on the Wildtrak, matched to a unique dark, titanium-effect finish for the trapezoidal grille and distinctive outboard air intakes. The same titanium-effect accent colour extends to the side mirrors, door handles, side air vents and load-bed rails for a bold and sporty appearance.
The comfortable and car-like interior is now delivered with an Ebony Black environment, and the painted surfaces are given greater shine and depth. The Wildtrak’s updated interior delivers a more upscale, sporting appeal featuring dark-satin chrome elements, a gloss-finish decorative spear and upscale partial-leather seats embossed with Wildtrak graphics. The seats have also been redesigned to be both sportier and more luxurious, incorporating additional leather content, ‘Mettle’ carbon-like weave accents and ‘Saber Orange’ stitching.
Tried and trusted Duratorq TDCi diesel and Duratec petrol engines
The powerful five-cylinder 3.2-litre Duratorq TDCi engine continues to lead the range, delivering impressive performance and outstanding load-lugging abilities with a peak power of 147kW matched to 470Nm of torque.
The reliable and efficient 2.2-litre TDCi engine remains a key part of the New Ranger line-up across the Single Cab, SuperCab and Double Cab models. It continues in the two existing levels: 88kW/285Nm with a five-speed manual gearbox for the base-spec models, and 118kW/385Nm for the more upmarket versions, available with a choice of six-speed manual and automatic transmissions on selected derivatives
The dependable 2.5-litre four-cylinder Duratec petrol engine is also available in selected models, providing 122kW of power and 225Nm of torque, combined with a five-speed manual gearbox.
Improved ride refinement and comfort
The Ranger is already highly regarded for its impressive ride and handling characteristics, and the 2019 model range has benefitted from further improvements that result in significantly improved ride quality more akin to that of a sport utility vehicle (SUV) than a pick-up.
A key change has been the relocation of the front stabiliser, or anti-roll bar, from the tight confines in front of the fully independent suspension to a new position behind the axle. This new set-up optimises the design and performance of the stabiliser bar, resulting in improved roll control – which, in turn, enables a decrease in front spring rates, thereby giving the Ranger better ride performance and comfort.
Compared to the outgoing Ranger line-up which used a single front damper setting across the range, four damper rates have been developed for the New Ranger. These settings have been tuned according to the front kerb weights of the individual models based on the body style, engine and drivetrain (manual vs automatic, 4×2 vs 4×4). At the same time, the standard tyre pressure has been reduced from 240 to 210 kPa.
Combined, these refinements provide a plusher ride over rough surfaces by better isolating the occupants from the road inputs. They also improve vehicle handling over corrugated surfaces, give better steering precision and control, and benefit the vehicle posture and ride performance when laden.
The Ranger’s exceptional towing capacity of up to 3 500kg remains unchanged, as do the impressive load capacity of up to 1 199kg (on selected SuperCab models), the 800mm water wading depth and 230mm ground clearance.
Leading-edge technology and safety
The Ford Ranger continues to rewrite the rulebook by introducing trend-setting technologies to the pick-up segment, and the New Ranger is no exception.
The innovative Semi-Automatic Parallel Park Assist (SAPPA) currently available on Ford’s Everest SUV is now standard on the Ranger Wildtrak. The system uses ultrasonic sensors on the front and rear bumpers that search for and identify parking spaces that are big enough to parallel park the vehicle. A combination of the Ranger’s electric power-assisted steering (EPAS) and sensors are used to steer the vehicle safely and perfectly into place, while the driver simply operates the gears, accelerator and brake.
The Ranger Wildtrak continues to be offered with leading active safety features, including Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Collision Alert, Driver Alert System and Lane-Keeping Aid, and Auto High Beam Control.
Adding further everyday convenience is the new Passive Entry and Passive Start (PEPS), fitted as standard on the XLT and Wildtrak. The keyless entry and passive start uses an intelligent access system that allows the driver to unlock the vehicle and start the engine without removing the key fob from a pocket or bag. When the key is in the vehicle, the driver simply presses the Start/Stop button while applying the brake pedal to start the car.
The all-new Ford key fob design that debuts on New Ranger incorporates a mechanical key blade to unlock the doors manually if the unit’s battery is depleted, as well as a designated back-up pocket between the cupholders that enables the push-button start. Once in the vehicle, the passive Start/Stop button allows the driver to turn on the ignition, or to start the engine while pressing the brake pedal.
Ford’s award-winning SYNC® technology remains the cornerstone of the Ranger’s in-car entertainment system on the high-end models. XLT and Wildtrak models are equipped with high-end SYNC® 3 linked to the integrated eight-inch touch-screen colour display. Navigation is standard on the Wildtrak and selected XLT derivatives.
XLS models use Ford’s SYNC® 1 with Bluetooth voice control and audio streaming, while XL and Base feature a Mechless Audio system with USB, iPod and USB connectivity.
The safety package offered in the New Ranger is of the highest order. Depending on specification level, it incorporates a comprehensive Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system with Traction Control (TC), Trailer Sway Control (TSC), Hill Start Assist (HSA), Hill Descent Control (HDC), Adaptive Load Control (ALC) and Roll Over Mitigation (ROM).
A full Category 1 Thatcham-specification alarm is now standard on all Ranger XL, XLS, XLT and Wildtrak models, complemented by a spare wheel lock across the range.
Convenient new EZ lift tailgate
One of the truly innovative new features making its debut on the Ranger XLT and Wildtrak is the EZ lift tailgate, which is a major boon for ease of use and convenience. A torsion rod is fitted into the tailgate, hinged to the vehicle body. This provides a significant 70-percent reduction in the initial lift force required to close it. Additionally, the opening of the tailgate is dampened, making it much easier to control when opening.
Caption: Microdots digital security device
Stallion Motors Urge Competition, Motorists to Deploy ‘Microdot’ Digital Security in Vehicles
Stallion Motors Limited has enjoined competitions and motorists to fit Microdots digital security device, just as it deployed the application in select brands including Nissan, Honda, Hyundai and Changan vehicles that are assembled and distributed by the company and its subsidiaries in Nigeria.
Also known as DataDots, Microdots DNA is a mechanical pepper spray that is applied in multiple discreet locations on a vehicle including older brands of automobiles to deter theft and prevent illicit trade of stolen parts, habitually pilfered from Micro-dotted vehicles by delinquents.
This suggests that all Nissan, Honda, Hyundai or Changan brands of vehicles purchased from any of the Stallion Motors’ accredited dealerships have been fitted on-line with Microdots to deter theft and forestall undue vandals.
Since its invention in the 1800s, when they were first used during the Franco-Prussian War as a message system until they are revamped, Microdots have showed capabilities for risk management and recovery; reducing premiums paid on insurance and enhancing frequency of recovering stolen vehicles just as it promises peace-of-mind for vehicle owners.
Late last year, Stallion Motors Limited was appointed the official distributor of Microdot in Nigeria by DataDot Technology South Africa (Pty) Limited primarily to check wanton theft of motor vehicles and traded stolen parts, while it stimulates confidence in the country’s evolving automotive industry.
Plans are now underway to educate and inform law enforcement agents especially the police, as well as insurance firms in Nigeria of the benefits of Microdots, while sensitising motorists on the need to get their vehicles Micro-dotted.
Stallion/DataDot Nigeria Head of Sales and Marketing Santhosh Kumar who gave this hint in Lagos also explained that the DataDot Technology works such that the micro-dotted vehicles including their parts are uniquely assigned with an identity that can only be linked to the rightful owner.
“This coded identity forestalls theft and intruders, and in the case of theft, it makes recovery of the stolen vehicle an easy task, while it simultaneously acts as a deterrent to thieves and intruders,” Mr. Kumar said.
Already in use in sane climes, DataDot pioneered microdot technology in South Africa in 2001 and are being used extensively to protect vehicles and assets.
“We are excited to introduce this new offering across Nigeria to enhance the positive experience of owning a vehicle without having to worry about the activities of vandals, who are habitually renowned for vandalizing cars,” Mr. Kumar said.
Already fitted in more than four million vehicles (about 70 per cent) of automobiles in South Africa, Microdot are uniquely marked with polymer particles of 1mm or 0.5mm in diameter called microdots, which are literally the size of a pin head that can only be viewed by a magnifier and traceable to the rightful owner.
Mr. Kumar said “DataDot is the number one option for your theft prevention needs and it is virtually impossible to locate let alone removing the microdots, a characteristic that makes it extremely difficult for thieves to sell micro-dotted assets without being apprehended.”
He urged motorists, fleet owners including truck and equipment managers to Microdot their assets to get the authorized DataDot App, which allows users to (i) link the DataDot PIN to the asset owner, (ii) allow users to share information, (iii) flag stolen vehicles and (IV) keep records of vehicle services.
Meanwhile, talks are progressing with the National Automotive Industry Development Council (NAIDC) to ensure other automobile brands including those imported and assembled in the country are urgently micro-dotted, Mr. Kumar affirmed.
Stallion Motors who are vehicle assemblers and franchisees of multiple brands of automobiles said: “We are proud to be part of a program which supports the automotive industry with the DataDot security DNA that gives customers peace-of-mind and increase trust in our brands.”
It is hoped the introduction of DataDot Micro-dotted DNA into the Nigerian automotive market would mark a significant turnaround in the growth of digital security system, opines Mr. Kumar.
Customer Satisfaction Remains Our Focus, Says Carbon Retail
Mr. Gautam Singh Ghai, is the Executive Director at Carbon Retail Limited. He speaks on the customer focused company as well as plans for the Nigerian market
About your Carbon Retail Limited
We are a three year-old company with retail operations in 7 countries across Africa. Namely Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Malawi, Mozambique, DRC, Zambia and Sudan. We are the largest distributors of Dunlop & Sumitomo brands of tyres in Africa by volume. Our group Holding company is called Carbon Global Holdings Limited and we operate our business in Nigeria under Carbon Retail Limited.
What are your plans for Nigeria?
We are focused on the consumer side of the business apart from the dealer network. Our endeavour is to give the Nigerian consumer a world class retail experience with state-of-the-art Tyre experience centres across the country. Typically, we have seen that the Nigerian market has not experienced retail in its truest form and we believe this is the space we will create a niche in and offer the consumer a never seen retail experience in this space.
Can you elaborate more on the retail piece?
When you visit any of our stores in any of the countries we operate in, you will see a distinct feature that is customer centric. Our stores are created with emphasis on transparency and openness. Starting from our customer lounge to the toilets we take great care to ensure we cater to comfort of the customer. We believe in investing in training and development and ensure all new hires go through extensive customer care training and technical knowhow before getting behind the counter. All our technicians must go through in-house training and tests before they get to the workshop bay. As you know, buying tyres is a grudge purchase decision and we believe we must make this experience as pleasurable as possible for a customer so that the when they walk out of the store, we occupy a positive space in the minds of the customer. We have not mastered it yet, but we would eventually want to measure happiness and satisfaction on every customer we attend to.
What are you doing differently from the other players in the market?
We would not like to comment on our competitors. To start with, we think Nigeria has not seen Tyre retail the way we see it. We see a lot of fitment centres, but none would really qualify on quality parameters when put to independent retail audit. We started our flagship store in December 2017 and within 2 months of operations we introduced Tyre Insurance on any tyre bought from our store. The 1st year we cover the tyres for free and should the customer desire, on a nominal charge he/she can extend it for another year. We have partnered with Prestige Insurance to provide this service to Nigerians. We are also the only company to Introduce Quick Service for all vehicle brands and we use only the top brands when it comes to consumables like Oil, Oil filters, Brake Pads and Shocks.
What are your plans for growth in this market?
We have big plans for Nigeria. We see Nigeria as an important market going forward. We have already identified cities and areas where we want to be operative and basis availability of prime locations, will be opening many more stores across the country. We are looking at organic as well as inorganic growth opportunities.
Any challenges in particular?
Pretty simple really…People. We can fight the market on price, we can fight on product the only challenge we face is getting good people on to our teams. We as a company have now started to scout business schools to bring on board exciting talents with fresh ideas to push forward our vision. If we can offer a platform to youngsters to experiment, make mistakes and become stakeholders, we believe Carbon will be a company that will be difficult to beat and one of the preferred employers in this market.
Lastly how do you see the Nigerian Tyre market?
For us Nigeria is the second biggest market after South Africa on this continent in terms of volume and potential. Despite the market being flooded with cheap brands from china we see the informed Nigerian consumer and fleets wanting quality brands. We are excited by the response we have got and believe we can give the consumer a fair price, quality product and unmatched service in this segment. Apart from offering almost all sizes in Passenger and 4×4 segment, we have offerings on both Tier 1 and Tier 2 brands with Dunlop and Sumitomo both coming from the same factory in Japan on the commercial truck segment. With regards to Off The Road and Industrial tyres side we have Solideal Camso as offering to complete the full range of needs in this market.