Autocar reveals who’s interested in Ford’s British brands, and why
2 August 2007

One question has been batted around in every car-maker's board meeting and every motor industry forum that's taken place over the past few weeks: if Ford really is selling Jaguar and Land Rover as a pair, who's buying?

Although preliminary bids for the British brands were submitted two weeks ago, Ford has yet to make public the identities of the bidders.

The names of several companies have leaked out over the past week, and Autocar has collected them below. We put them to Ford, but a spokesperson declined to confirm or deny their veracity. This is the most definitive list so far, however – and should make interesting reading for anyone with a stake in Jaguar or Land Rover's future.

THE SUITORS

The Tata Group

A highly diversified group of Indian companies that makes trains, power stations, commercial vehicles and cars, as well as engineering them for other firms.

Tata Motors is perhaps best known in the UK for producing the infamous CityRover, and now for planning to produce the £1500 'Lakh car'. It's well known for big takeovers, having acquired Daewoo Commercial Vehicles and Corus Steel over the past three years.

They say:

"Our bid is at an exploratory stage, and may not lead to anything formal."

We think:

It seems odd that a company known for bringing cheap cars to the masses would want two premium brands, but Tata's a varied and growing outfit, and may well want a foothold in the UK market.

Mahindra & Mahindra

Another large Indian manufacturer already present in five continents and rapidly expanding into the global market. Best known for utility and 4x4 vehicles, Mahindra is introducing an SUV to the US market in 2008. Could either be preparing its own bid, or preparing to team up with Tata.

They say:

"Any reports linking us with the situation are speculative."

We think:

It's highly unlikely that Mahindra would buy Jaguar and Land Rover. Though the funds are probably there, the incentive to run two premium brands is probably not. Its best bet would be in tandem with Tata.

The Fiat Group

A formerly financially beleaguered multinational firm now on the road to happier times. In the process of launching the new Fiat 500, and enjoying a return to profitability, Fiat is safely on the road to recovery.

It already owns Maserati, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari; could now be the time to eliminate one of Maserati's key rivals, and pick up a profitable 4x4 brand in the process?

They say:

"We've never been interested, and that remains the case."

We think:

The only European manufacturer linked with the Jaguar and Land Rover sale has got reasons to acquire the twin brands, but it's claimed that talks with Ford were ended due to fears over how the buyout would affect Fiat's credit rating. Perhaps it's too early for this kind of move.

Cerberus Capital Management

The private equity firm that bought an 80.1 per cent share in Chrysler in May this year. Less well known is the company's £7 billion investment in General Motors Acceptance – GM's finance company. Cerberus currently has annual revenue of around £29 billion.

They say:

"The talks have yet to result in a firm offer."

We think:

Cerberus has a proven interest in expanding into the car-making industry, and Ford has admitted to holding talks with them. Though it was stated that no offer had been made, Cerberus may well be in pole position. Jaguar and Land Rover would suit the company's expanding portfolio very well.

OAO Russian Machines, or GAZ

One of the largest machine-building companies in Russia; GAZ produces trailers, buses and specialist tools, as well as cars. The most recent vehicle GAZ introduced is the Volga 31105, which retails at around £3500 in Russia.

They say:

"The company states that neither OAO Russian Machines nor any of the businesses within the holding company are interested in acquiring Ford's Land Rover and Jaguar brands."

We think:

GAZ has expressed an interest in expanding and modernising its vehicle range, but the company has now explicitly denied any involvement in the sale of Ford's two premium brands. Case closed.

One Equity Partners

A private equity company led by Jac Nasser, the former CEO of Ford and the man responsible for setting up Premium Automotive Group (the company that encompasses Ford's luxury European brands). Similar to Cerberus in its portfolio of well established companies, which includes Pirelli.

They say:

Nothing yet.

We think:

Nasser's got the knowledge and the passion to make a success of the brands, and now the finances behind him too. Another favourite.

Ripplewood Holdings

Another US equity firm, headed up by Thomas Stallkamp, former president of Chrysler. Ripplewood has its interests in various markets in Japan and the US, where it recently led a £1.2 million buyout of Readers' Digest magazine.

They say:

Nothing, so far.

We think:

Stallkamp will be key to the success of this bid, since Ripplewood has no automotive assets currently, and Jaguar and Land Rover would be difficult first-time propositions. A long shot.

Texas Pacific Group

Yet another American investment firm, which claims to "create value by investing in change". It seems to be working, with over £14.5 billion of capital under management, including fast food giant Burger King and Ducati motorcycles.

They say:

Nothing, yet.

We think:

TPG has no experience in financing car manufacturers, and lacks the connections that One Equity and Ripplewood have. It does appear to be a company willing to take big risks in the name of profit, though.

Vicky Parrott

What do you think Ford should do with Jaguar and Land Rover? Cast your vote in Autocar.co.uk's online survey here.

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK