A woman's touch is creating new opportunities in the motor industry

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Pritika Maharaj
Pritika Maharaj

• Pritika Maharaj has worked on over a dozen vehicle programmes, including the new Ford Ranger revealed this week.
• Maharaj knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a motor mechanic.
• More women are being given equal career opportunities in the motoring industry.
• For motoring news, go to Wheels24.  

Pritika Maharaj realised from an early age that she wanted to become a trained motor mechanic. While still in school, she went down to the local garage and, with no experience at the time, asked for a job. She began to get a feel for the trade by doing routine tasks like filling fuel, checking oil levels, and then completing basic maintenance and services. 

Pritika's determination and passion convinced the garage owner to take her on as an apprentice, but on one condition; she had to finish school first.

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"That was smart advice," admits Maharaj. "I continued working part-time at the garage and learned the basics of mechanics. And I stayed in school and went on to major in engineering. Around this time, I also started motorbike racing, and that's when I really found my passion: racing and working on my bike's simple one-piston engine was a dream come true."

"While I don't get to race motorbikes any longer, I still have an adventurous streak. I have a son who's just turned 13, and he and his mates are absolute off-road enthusiasts. I own a Wildtrak, and we've got some friends who also have two Wildtraks, so we have a great time holidaying together. Our camping trips include a combination of towing, waterskiing and off-roading, and the Rangers are made for that. Between us, we tow two caravans, a boat and all our bikes and gear. We can get very competitive with the off-roading, and that's why I can't wait to get into a new Ranger with the 3.0-litre V6," adds Maharaj.

Pritika's experience has grown exponentially since those formative years and now includes nearly twenty engine programmes in different roles and more than a dozen various vehicle programmes. As T6 programme manager, her latest work has been focused on building and refining the powertrain that will be used in the new Ranger, which made its global reveal this week and will be built in South Africa. 

Working in a male-dominated industry has never intimidated Pritika, and her actions and achievements inspire women to follow their dreams despite being in the minority. Years later, Pritika is still doing what she loves! "Powertrain is absolutely my favourite area – I feel "at home" when I am working in this world. And it's always been that way," says Maharaj  

Developing the new Ford Ranger – What it takes!

Speaking ahead of the Ranger's reveal, Pritika highlighted the extensive processes and rigorous testing that goes into one of South Africa's best-selling cars, but also in more than 180 different markets.

"We did more research and talked to more customers than any other program," says Maharaj. 

"I learned from customers in Australia, Germany, the UK and Thailand about how Ranger fits into their lives - whether it's relying on Ranger for their livelihood, making a statement with their Wildtrak, or those whose motto was "the only thing better than capacity in an engine is more capacity". 

No matter if a customer's priority is fuel economy, refinement, or great low-end torque for towing and hauling, the powertrains we've chosen for the next-gen Ranger will give all our customers the best performance and core capability."

"We know our customers push their Rangers to the extreme, so that's how we test them. We go the extra mile to make sure Ranger will do everything our customers want, over and over again, year after year. 

Ford Ranger
2022 Ford Ranger

Whether it's our 3.0L V6, 2.0L Bi-Turbo or Single Turbo, we simulate extreme customer usage by running these engines for more than 700 continuous hours at full throttle. That's like going around the world six times at full throttle!" remarks Maharaj.

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Greater diversity and inclusion is certainly part of Ford's ongoing benchmarks, and Ford South Africa is committed to ensuring equal career opportunities for female employees in the workplace by increasing the ratio of female to male engineers and diversifying these roles to be more inclusive of women in the automotive industry as a whole.

Yota Baron is one such example; she was recently appointed as the first female Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at Ford South Africa. "Being the first female in my family to graduate from university was a great privilege," explains Yota. "I would like to focus on paying forward that which I have been so privileged to learn over the years both locally and abroad by working with young people and inspiring them to believe they can achieve anything they set their minds to."

Carol Mabuse is another lady blazing a trail at Ford. Mabuse has held various leadership positions in the manufacturing space at Ford, including Body Construction Production Team Manager, Lead in Trim Chassis and Final (TCF), Vehicle Evaluation Manager in the Quality team, and currently, Paint Manufacturing Engineering Manager. "I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have received from Ford. 

"Looking around the shop floor, it is incredible to see how many women there are in such a variety of positions and vocations. I look forward to seeing even more women entering the automotive sector in the future," says Mabuse.

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