LONDON (AP) _ Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it was reviewing its
position on Jaguar and Land Rover, and union officials pressed for
more information amid reports that the two brands were up for sale.
John Gardiner, a spokesman for Ford's Premier Automotive Group
which includes the two brands, said Ford had been reviewing all of
its operations for a year.
``We are working with our financial advisers on the best options
for Jaguar and Land Rover, and nothing is ruled out,'' Gardiner
said. He added that there was no time frame for making a decision.
Ford's review of the two brands comes as it is struggling to
return to profitability in the face of fierce competition from Asian
automakers and changing tastes for more fuel-efficient models in its
key North American market. It is slashing thousands of jobs and
plans to close plants to cut costs.
Prime Minister Tony Blair's office said it was in touch with Ford
about the review.
``We still believe that both Land Rover and Jaguar are highly
successful companies and will have a highly successful future,'' the
prime minister's official spokesman said.
British lawmaker Lorely Burt, who represents Solihull, home to
Land Rover's assembly plant, said legislators were told Monday night
that Ford was ``looking at all the options which may or may not
include a sale.''
``We are very concerned to hear these reports and we are seeking
an urgent meeting with Jaguar/Land Rover,'' said Dave Osborne,
national officer of the Unite union.
``We find it difficult to understand why Ford would want to sell
a successful, growing and environmentally improving brand like Land
Rover, and a marque like Jaguar, which is a significant player in
the luxury market and one that Ford has invested heavily in.''
Land Rover and Jaguar are part of Ford's Premier Auto Group,
which also includes Volvo. Ford sold Aston Martin, another part of
the group, for $848 million in March, with some analysts saying the
luxury brand did not fit into Ford's long-term survival plan for
cost savings from developing multiple models worldwide on the same
Ford posted a narrower loss of $282 million for the first
quarter. The Premier Automotive Group reported a record pretax
profit of $402 million for the quarter due largely to Volvo.
Ford bought Jaguar in 1989 and Land Rover in 2000. The two
business have about 19,000 employees in Britain.
Geoffrey Robinson, a legislator representing Jaguar's base in
Coventry, said speculation about a sale was ``was not news in the
sense that... it was announced some time ago that they would be
looking to do this.''
``It seems to have moved on a whole gear now that they do have
certain groups earmarked who might go forward and make specific
bids,'' Robinson told BBC radio.
``Ford have got some huge problems on their own, really huge
facing survival really on their hands. They actually don't have the
management capability, never really had it, to make a success of
Jaguar. And Jaguar could potentially be a great success story, as
could Land Rover,'' said Robinson, who was chief executive of Jaguar
Cars in 1974-75.