Despite numerous media reports to the contrary, Ford has made no firm decision on selling the luxury Jaguar and Land Rover brands, the automaker told just-auto on Tuesday afternoon.
London-based spokesman John Gardiner said that things had “hardly changed” since the initial flurry of news reports on Monday following a City newspaper report, subsequently denied, that private equity firm Alchemy Partners was set to buy the brands for GBP3bn.
Gardiner reiterated that Ford was assessing all of its strategic options, and reviewing all of its operations.
“We’re not ruling anything in or out,” he said.
Gardiner confirmed, however, that Ford was working with its financial advisers to establish the “best future for Jaguar and Land Rover” and stressed that a sale would not necessarily be the final outcome.
However, though Gardiner declined to tell just-auto whether or not Ford was currently considering any firm offers for the two brands, Britain’s Channel 4 television news reported that the automaker had invited proposals from three potential buyers.
Earlier today, the BBC reported that Land Rover and Jaguar workers are again facing job loss uncertainties after a union leader voiced concerns about Ford’s reported decision to sell the brands.
According to the broadcaster’s website, Unite union national officer Dave Osborne said its “prime concern” was the job security of workers.
Jaguar has about 10,000 staff at sites in Coventry, Birmingham, and Liverpool, while Land Rover employs about 9,000 in the West Midlands and Warwickshire, the report said.
The BBC noted that Ford has been selling assets in a bid to offset falling sales and profits and said the automaker was expected to make an official announcement in the next few days.
BBC business editor Robert Peston reported that Ford had told UK members of parliament (MPs) it was still some way from doing a deal but expects strong interest from private equity firms.
Separately, the Associated Press (AP) quoted local politician Lorely Burt, who represents Solihull, as saying that MPs were told on Monday night that Ford was “looking at all the options which may or may not include a sale.” That has since been confirmed by Ford’s Gardner.
The view was also echoed by Geoffrey Robinson, representing Jaguar’s base in Coventry, who, according to AP, 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 reportedly 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.
Yesterday, Alchemy Partners denied a report in the City AM newspaper that it was about to lodge a GBP3bn bid for Ford. The automaker did not directly deny a sale was planned soon, however.
Alchemy chairman and founder Jon Moulton on Tuesday told the BBC that there was uncertainty surrounding jobs at the two firms – and unions should be worried. “They would be right to be concerned,” Moulton said.
“At the moment it is absolutely anybody’s guess what the medium and long-term situation will be for jobs in those plants,” he added.
Unite’s Osborne said the union could not see why Ford would want to sell the businesses.
“We find it difficult to understand why Ford would want to sell a successful, growing and environmentally improving brand like Land Rover,” he told the BBC.
Osborne added that Jaguar “was a significant player in the luxury market and one that Ford has invested heavily in. We are very concerned to hear these reports and we are seeking an urgent meeting with Jaguar and Land Rover. Our prime concern is the job security of our members.”
The BBC noted Monday reports that Ford had chosen Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and HSBC to advise it on the sale of Jaguar and Land Rover.
Jaguar, Land Rover – and Volvo – are all part of Ford’s Premier Automotive Group (PAG).
The British luxury sports car maker Aston Martin was also part of this group but, last March, was sold to a UK-led business group for £479m ($924m).
Analysts have wondered for some time what Ford might do with Land Rover and Jaguar, neither of which has performed well, the BBC said.
Both Jaguar and Land Rover have steadily shed staff in recent years as they restructured their UK manufacturing facilities.
Land Rover workers at the company’s Solihull plant in 2004 agreed to a new, more efficient work practices as part of a new ‘road map’ for the company’s future.
However, the automaker subsequently decided the plant had not met the agreed efficiency targets and, last year, transferred production of the redesigned top-selling entry-level Freelander to the Jaguar X-type plant at Halewood near Liverpool (which was running below capacity due to disappointing X-type sales), requiring some of the 8,000 Land Rover shop floor workers at Solihull to either relocate or accept severance packages.
Separately, Jaguar, also in 2004, announced plans to end car production at its famous Browns Lane plant in Coventry, with 400 voluntary redundancies, and and move XKS/R and XJ production and 425 jobs to the Castle Bromwich S-type factory.
Jaguar also axed 750 mostly white-collar staff as ‘back office’ work was merged with Land Rover. The plan left about 300 jobs at Browns Lane, where workers make wood finishes.
Ford also is on schedule with its ‘Way Forward’ plan, intended primarily to return its North American automotive operations to profit, and that involves the axing of thousands of both blue and white collar jobs and the closing of a large number of factories.