Matter of Pride and Dignity; US-based Jaguar won’t allow Indian ownership

In a recent development over the ownership of Ford’s luxury car brand Jaguar, Ken Gorin, the Chairman of the Jaguar Business Operations Council, believes that they should grant the ownership to neither of the Indian Motor Giants - Tata Group nor Mahindra & Mahindra.

He said, “I don’t believe the US public is ready for ownership out of India of a luxury car brand such as Jaguar. And I believe it would severely throw a tremendous cast of doubt over the viability of the brand.” Jaguar should instead be sold to US-based JPMorgan Chase & Co, the other contender besides Tata and Mahindra.

Gorin was however quick to point out that he wasn’t judging the management capabilities of Tata or M&M – “My concern is perception (in the marketplace), and perception is reality. It’s about saying there are unique image issues with two of the bidders that the other one doesn’t have.”

“Being a luxury brand and not a mass market brand, there are a number of subjective items that create the lustre of a brand,” he added. He added another punch-line, “I don’t think we could have a Chinese-owned Jaguar either.”

Statistics shows that, last year Jaguar derived just about 30% of its sales from North America. Gorin’s decision illustrate how groups with a stake in Jaguar are choosing sides as Ford approaches a decision on selling them. It was few weeks back that about 60 senior shop stewards representing workers at Jaguar and Land rover voted in favor of a resolution supporting the Indian Tata Motor’s bid.

The vote occurred a day after representatives of Tata Motors, M&M and One Equity met separately with British trade-union leaders. Union officials want assurances that a sale of the brands wouldn’t lead to job losses or factory closures.

The Indian Tata group is a highly diversified conglomerate with experience in upscale businesses, its Hotels division took over management of the landmark Pierre hotel in New York in 2005. The Tata group also owns former British stalwarts Tetley Tea and steel company Corus Group Plc., giving the company extensive links to UK business and political leaders.

Ford acquired Jaguar for $2.5 billion in 1989 and Land Rover for $2.75 billion in 2000. The company has put them up for sale as it seeks to refocus on its Ford brand and its North American business. Ford posted losses of $12.6 billion last year and has seen its revenue tumble this year.