Turns out there were three ugly sisters after all. Cinderella was easy to identify. She was better known to her sisters in the Ford family as Aston, named after the car of that name because she was so beautiful and made lots of money (no, no boys, not in that way).

But her three sisters who lived with her in the house called PAG were not so blessed.
The eldest sister, Jaguar, had been a beauty in her early years but neglected the Oil of Ulay and the visits to the stylist. She was never going to make any money without some serious help, or by working with the blind. Jaguar’s twin sister, Landy, was the talk of the neighbourhood because she was born pig ugly and fit only to work in the fields with the farm labourers.

But as time rolled on she developed a certain elegance that was remarked on by landowners and even royalty. It was generally assumed that she would make money in due course.

And finally Volvo, who from her pale, sculptured looks clearly had some Scandinavian blood in her. She was always strutting around using street talk and telling people she was well safe, whatever that means. We all had our doubts about her.

Their dear father, Bill, was too polite to tell anyone in great detail how the income of the combined house of PAG was made up. And quite right too.

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Then Aston left home, seduced by two Kuwaiti princes, a cheque for GBP500m and a little place in the country.  We now know for sure that she was making a few bob because that nice Mr Ulrich Bez, her new landlord, told me. Making money since the last quarter of 2005, apparently.

As befits twin sisters in a fairy story, Landy and Jaguar became betrothed on the same day to two handsome Indian princes. Both boys were called Ta, funnily enough, because they were so polite. When they were together people called them Tata or maybe they were just saying goodbye. Everyone warned the girls that they would be whisked away to India if they accepted marriage and would never see England again. But they paid no heed. Bill told Tata that Jaguar and Landy together were substantially profitable and that they should use that expression whenever they could, rather than make one or the other daughter look cheap.

Tata remembered their lessons well and when the nasty rough analysts and journalists were invited to the engagement party in India for a cup of tea (Tetley of course; Tata liked it so much they bought the company) and a slice of nan, they said over and over again that the twins together were “substantially profitable.”

Then one bottle of Cobra too many and the cat was out of the bag. “Jaguar,” said the man at the microphone, “is unprofitable.”

Imagine the weeping and wailing and what Mrs Ford had to say about that. But the genie would not go back in the bottle. Landy, we now know must be making GBP500m a year at least because we can add up and subtract previous scraps of information given by Bill. We always knew that girl had promise.

But there was worse to come for the sisters and it came last week. You will remember that by now the house of PAG is empty, all but for Volvo who is still at home in the hearth reading car mags and chanting for self-assurance “well safe.”

In the first quarter of this year, Bill told the world on a microphone hard-wired to the world, Volvo lost USD151m (GNP75m).

 “Wow,” said the watching world. “That is ugly.” Even Mrs Ford had to agree that she was seeing the attractions of her remaining daughter in a new light, however good her passive restraints might be.

As this is a serious motor industry website, a few facts would be appropriate before we head for the curtain call.

An annualised loss of GBP300m would be serious. And it will probably get worse. Those nasty money changers who can gate crash any fairy story will no longer give you many euros for a dollar or a sterling pound, and if your expenses are all in euros and your biggest customers buy in dollars or sterling you are a bit stuffed. Volvo volume is falling, and market shares are falling because new models are needed.

When Ford said three months ago that it had changed its mind about Volvo and it was no longer for sale, what it really meant, it transpires, was that it was not saleable.
The final moments of the quarterly earnings broadcast last week was for Bill to select a new hero from within his family. Ford of Europe is transformed with great new products and an appropriate cost base, he said. It will make good money.

The problem for us with Ford of Europe, is that it is a terrible name for a girl.

Rob Golding