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The Big Picture: It’s all over for consolidation

The news that Ford wants out of Land Rover and Jaguar is further confirmation that the age of carmaker consolidation is well and truly over.

Since 2000, DaimlerChrysler has sold Chrysler to Cerberus, sold back its stake in Mitsubishi and divested its interest in Hyundai; Ford has already sold Aston Martin; General Motors has handed its stake back to Fiat (plus £1bn to extract itself from the put option) and sold its stake in Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries to Toyota.

Other groups have struggled to make each division succeed at the same time. VW Group, which owns the most brands in Europe, has been through several restructures as it tries to make Volkswagen, Audi, Seat and Skoda all thrive simultaneously – although there’s no suggestion that it is looking to offload. Indeed, Porsche has looked to protect its own interests by taking a large stake in the group.

However, the analysts who were predicting that just six carmaker owners would exist by 2010 have had to back-pedal.

The Ford-Land Rover/Jaguar story is not actually new. Detroit was considering its options several months back, according to one source, although it kept its cards close to its chest. So close, in fact, that the heads of Jaguar and Land Rover didn’t know about the impending sell until the act of appointing Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and HSBC as financial advisors was under way. It led to some angry boardroom scenes.

Analysts believe Ford wants £3-4bn for both marques – they will be sold together – although there are few suitors.

That’s not to say the brands aren’t worth the money. Land Rover is profitable and in reasonable shape, and Jaguar, while still suffering big losses, has some superb new products coming through. One thing any new owner does need to do, though, is change Jaguar’s appalling ‘gorgeous’ TV ads. As marketing guru Simon Gulliford told delegates at last week’s Autoretailing convention, forget the gloss, “show the dog the rabbit”.

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