LONDON (AP) _ Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it was reviewing its
position on Jaguar and Land Rover, fuelling speculation that the
Dearborn, Michigan-based company is getting closer to selling them.
John Gardiner, a spokesman for Ford's Premier Automotive Group,
which includes the two brands plus Volvo, said Ford has been
reviewing all of its operations for a year. The company has said in
the past that a sale of the two brands is possible.
``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 may be more interested in selling the two British brands now
because the U.S. automotive market has softened in recent months and
Ford may be in need of more cash, said David Cole, chairman of the
Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.
``I think really that Jaguar and Land Rover have both been on the
block unofficially because they were not really core to Ford. The
real question is what kind of value can you get for them?'' he said.
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 developing tastes for more fuel-efficient models in
its key North American market.
Ford is slashing thousands of jobs and plans to close 16 plants
by 2012 to cut costs. It recently closed a casting plant in Windsor,
Ont., with a loss of 450 jobs.
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 MP 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
``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.''
Ford sold Aston Martin, another part of the Premier Automotive
Group, for US$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.
Cole said Ford may be afraid of burning up more cash than the $17
billion it expects to burn up through 2009 to cover losses and
restructuring costs. The company has mortgaged its assets to finance
its turnaround plan.
``This is a tough revenue market now for everybody,'' said Cole,
who added that rebates and other incentives are on the rise now due
to superheated competition.
Because Volvo is making money, Ford may have to throw it into the
deal to sell the other two brands, Cole said. But Ford also is
relying on Volvo as it tries to globalize its engineering, design
and manufacturing systems, he said.
Geoffrey Robinson, a legislator representing Jaguar's base in
Coventry, said speculation about a sale of Jaguar and Land Rover
``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.