If you’ve ever mustered the enthusiasm to wash your own car, you’ll know that carrying a full bucket of water from the tap to the car can be a strenuous exercise. But it’s quite likely that your driveway is not as large as the parking lot at Ford’s plant!
The combined size of the two car parks at the Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria spans roughly 50 000m² with thousands of parking bays. A group of four entrepreneurial car washers were quick to identify an opportunity and began offering Ford employees their car washing services a few years back.
Earlier this year, Ford engineer Shaun Horsford spotted an opportunity to assist, and petitioned Ockert Berry, VP Operations at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA), who gave the green light for his team to step in and assist these service providers and devise a better, more efficient solution for moving their heavy buckets of water.
“The project was certainly a lot of fun to be involved in,” says Horsford, STA Site Engineer at FMCSA and mastermind behind the idea of the car wash trolleys. “We were already looking at ways to help. They are familiar faces to everyone who works at Ford and this was an opportunity for us to see what we could do for them, especially at this time of the year.”
The Ford Performance Car Wash trolley, the first of its kind on the planet, was thus born!
Enlisting the help from Ford’s contracted fabricators, the team came up with the idea of manufacturing four easy-to-slide and sturdy Ford Performance trolleys, with the sides finished in racy Ford Performance branding. Like the Ford Performance Raptor, the trolley is Built Ford Tough to cope with carrying 200 litres, or roughly 200kg of water.
Acceleration times are difficult to quote for the trolley, as are power outputs and torque figures, which largely rely on the level of fitness of the driver. But in testing, top speed notably increased on downhills. And cornering seemed best with a load not exceeding 70-percent load-capacity!
The cutting-edge technology used by the foot-operated drum brakes has negated the need for a handbrake, which shaves important seconds in the time-sensitive car wash business. This, along with the lightweight material chosen for the chassis and the revolutionary rear-wheel steering system, a feature usually reserved for luxury vehicles, ensure dynamic and precise handling at any speed.
The trolley has been independently reviewed by local trolley-testing authority Ciro De Siena, who was given an exclusive pre-launch test drive at the Silverton Assembly Plant.
“The suspension is firm, but you’d expect that from what really is a workhorse vehicle”, De Siena said. “After comparing previous water transport methods with that afforded by the new trolley, this first-generation car wash trolley is undoubtedly a game changer”, he added.
De Siena compiled a video report of the trolley which can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h71EOhUrciY&t=6s.
By making fewer trips to and from the water points, it is expected that the car wash entrepreneurs can increase their car wash rate per day, which will greatly increase their earning potential.
“With these special trolleys we are able to help these entrepreneurs work more efficiently and have a bit of fun,” comments Horsford. “By doing something like this we are also improving their quality of life as they no longer have to endure carrying heavy buckets of water across the parking lot.”
While the official handover of these trolleys on 26 November would have felt like an early Christmas for Sizwe Khumalo, Solly Mangena, Dominique Mbewe and Simon Moshidi, it is in fact just a small element of the continued Ford For South Africa initiative that highlights Ford’s role as a corporate citizen in South Africa.
“Ford is for many things: creating jobs, boosting the economy, supporting worthy causes, investing in the youth, protecting our country’s wildlife, and the list goes on,” says Berry. “As part of our 97-year manufacturing history, we want to show our commitment to South Africa at all levels. Helping with these trolleys shows that even small but insightful gestures can make a big difference.”
“Twenty-twenty was a really tough year for someone like me in the car wash profession,” says Sizwe Khumalo, one of the recipients of the car wash trolleys.
“Now, thanks to Ford, we look forward to a new year that will allow us to work faster, look like race car drivers with the Ford Performance trolleys, and complete more speedy washes in a day. We are grateful to everyone at Ford for treating us like family and helping us to be even better at the work that we do here at the Silverton Assembly Plant.”
The parking area at the Silverton Assembly Plant also plays a crucial role in Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa’s Renewable Energy Programme, known as Project Blue Oval. With 31 000 solar panels covering 4 200 parking bays, this project is currently under construction and will be one of the largest solar car parks in the world once completed. It will deliver approximately 30 percent of the Silverton Plant’s annual power requirements. The R135-million investment in clean solar energy will contribute to the Silverton Plant’s objective to be 100 percent carbon neutral and completely energy self-sufficient by 2024. This will be one of the very first plants in the world to achieve this benchmark status.