Ford Motors Company is to start assembling its best-selling Ford Ranger pickup truck in Nigeria by the fourth quarter, the U.S. automaker said on Tuesday in Lagos.

Jeff Nemeth, the President and CEO of Ford Motor Company’s business in sub-Saharan Africa told Reuters that the aim was to expand its business in Africa and the Middle East.

“Nigeria is a priority market for us in sub-Saharan Africa.

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“Depending on how Nigeria develops over time … we are potentially looking at using our Nigerian plant to service West Africa,” Nemeth told Reuters.

The Nigerian assembly plant, in partnership with Ford dealer Coscharis Motors Ltd., is the first outside South Africa, where Ford produces the Ranger for 148 markets.

The auto market in Africa’s biggest economy has huge potential but retails only a small amount of new vehicles annually, Nemeth said.

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“The Ikeja plant in Lagos will assemble the Ford Ranger using parts and components imported from South Africa.

“The plant will have the capacity to assemble up to 5,000 units annually, which will be sold in Nigeria.

Ford produces 85,000 units each year in South Africa, which are sold across 24 African countries.

“It would take between one to two months to take an order, build it and deliver it within the country.

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“If you order from overseas it would take between six to six months,” Nemeth said.

He noted that the benefit of the Nigerian plant was being close to its customers.

Rival automakers, Renault-Nissan, South Korea’s Kia Motors and Germany’s Volkswagen have announced plans to assemble vehicles in

Africa’s most populous and advanced economy.

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