Focus on Ford

Today is the official deadline for bidders for Jaguar and Land Rover to declare their interest. Cash-strapped vendor Ford is reportedly expecting ‘a number of offers' for the two iconic brands, including rumours of one from India's Tata Motors. But most of the smart money is on - you guessed it - a private equity funded buyout.

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

After last year's calamitous $12.7bn loss - the biggest ever in its 103 yr history - Ford desperately needs to ‘release' as much ‘value' as it can from the sale. But most analysts reckon it will be lucky to make more than $1.5bn. Not bad, but is it enough? Well that depends on what you mean. Is it enough to single-handedly re-invigorate Ford's flagging fiscal fortunes? No. Will it buy CEO Alan Mulally some time by tossing a bone to the baying hordes of his shareholders? Yes - especially when you add in the $924m made from the sale of Aston Martin earlier his year.

That's all well and good, and Mulally - no fool he - doubtless has a cunning plan to revivify Ford in its US corporate heartland. But the bigger question here is whether selling off the corporate silver is the right thing to do in the circumstances.

One of Ford's thorniest problems is that - despite the undeniable quality and value of its products - buyer these days simply don't want to drive a car with a blue oval on the front. The new Mondeo has been widely hailed as the most capable rival to BMW's class-leading 3 Series around, and it costs thousands of pounds less. But the baby Beemer will probably still outsell the Ford because of the power of its brand.

Once Jaguar and Land Rover are gone, Ford will only have Volvo left in what was its flagship collection of premium marques, the Premier Auto Group. In the longer term it may come to regret the lack of brand horsepower these sales will leave it with.

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