Speculation throughout the auto industry continues to ebb and flow it seems with each passing week. The big question: is Ford planning to sell off Land Rover and Jaguar – and even perhaps Volvo – in an effort to recapture some much needed capital?
The answer, as usual, depends upon whom you want to listen to.
The Boston Herald said the Prime Minister himself was contacted about the possibility of the sale, and his spokesman said "We still believe that both Land Rover and Jaguar are highly successful companies and will have a highly successful future." No ambiguity there.
John Gardiner, a spokesman for Ford’s Premier Automotive Group, which includes the two brands plus Volvo, told the Herald that Ford has been reviewing all of its operations for a year, and 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.
Maybe the company is looking to concentrate more on its core brand. It’s no secret that Ford has lost a lot of mileage to the big 3 from the Asian market, and has also lost some traction in the fuel efficiency battle. And Ford does have a history of bailing out when things get tight. Ford sold Aston Martin, a part of this Premier Automotive Group, for $848 million in March. This year, Ford posted a $282 million loss for the first quarter (however, the Premier Automotive Group reported a record pretax profit of $402 million for the quarter, due largely to Volvo).
Certainly, quality is not the issue. The 2007 JD Power Company rankings of Initial Quality Surveys showed Ford made dramatic improvements. The survey ranks cars and brands by the number of defects identified by customers during the first three months of ownership. Land Rover was the most improved nameplate in the entire survey.
And it’s not for lack of vision, either. Land Rover indicated an interest in hybrid vehicles with the Land-E diesel-electric concept vehicle it showed last year in Geneva, and is reportedly pursuing hybrid models “full tilt”…a direction sorely needed by Ford right now. In fact, British publication Autocar reports that “plans are afoot to show a next-generation version of the Land-E’s driveline system, which features an electric motor integrated into the rear axle, along with a propshaft that decouples, enabling the vehicle to enjoy low-drag two-wheel drive running.”
So…is Land Rover for sale or not? Maybe the Prime Minister is right. The future looks bright for Land Rover so sale or no sale, it doesn’t really matter. The marque is not going away. Indeed, it is leading the way into the future, which may be the most rugged terrain it has faced to date.
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