Ford Confirms Jaguar, Land Rover Review

Unions clamor for a meeting as Ford confirms it had been studying options for Land Rover and Jaguar; no timeline for a decision announced.

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 underpinnings.

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 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.

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