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Old 11-30-2005, 12:26   #1 (permalink)
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EU:Ford may sell historic Jaguar plant in Coventry

Ford may sell historic Jaguar plant in Coventry

Reuters

FRANKFURT -- Ford Motor Co. is mulling the sale of its historic Browns Lane plant near Coventry, central England, that was the home of its iconic Jaguar brand since 1928, Jaguar said on Wednesday.

"The possible sale of Browns Lane is one of several options that is currently being studied," spokesman Don Hume said, confirming a report in the Wall Street Journal.

He would not confirm the newspaper's report that Ford intended to cut Jaguar production by 6 to 7 percent in 2006 amid slack demand.

"It is too early to comment on production figures for 2006 as we are still in the process of finalizing our plans at this stage," Hume said.

Under pressure to curtail chronic losses at Jaguar, Ford last year cut 1,150 Jaguar jobs in England, scaled back production at the Browns Lane plant and shifted output to another factory near Birmingham.

Workers at Browns Lane now make wooden trim for Jaguar interiors or have administrative jobs. No cars are built there.

A person familiar with the situation said several parties, including a manufacturer, had approached Jaguar about buying the plant but that no decision had yet been made. Company officials informed workers about the talks last week.

Ford lost $284 million in the third quarter and its North American vehicle operations have lost more than $1.4 billion before taxes so far this year. It has promised to unveil a radical restructuring in North America early next year.

Ford bought Jaguar in 1989 for $2.76 billion (1.6 billion pounds) but has struggled to make money with the brand, characterized by its leaping big cat mascot. In September it dropped its forecast that Jaguar would break even by 2007.

Acknowledging that it was building too many cars, Jaguar last year lopped 15,000 units of planned output to help shore up pricing power in an increasingly competitive premium car market.

It also pulled out of the U.S. daily rental business this year as it adjusted production volume to meet demand.

Jaguar is one of the European luxury brands in Ford's Premier Automotive Group, which also includes Volvo, Land Rover and Aston Martin.
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