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Jaguar Shifts Gears, Backs Buyout by Ford

November 03, 1989|DAN FISHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

According to the joint announcement, Ford will expand Jaguar's research and development capability at its headquarters in Coventry. It said the firms intend "that there will be continuity of employment for the Jaguar work force."

Egan said: "Ford were prepared to make satisfactory guarantees about how the business would be run in the future. Jaguar will be an independent company with a board that has its own funding arrangements."

His own future is uncertain, he said, adding: "I hope to stay with the company to make sure these plans have made a good start. Whether I stay is a matter of agreement between Lindsey (Halstead) and myself."

Auto industry analysts here said that Ford is expected to invest considerable additional money in Jaguar in order to speed production of a new executive sedan and a sports model long rumored as a successor to the famous E-type Jaguar.

Presumably, Ford will want to increase significantly Jaguar capacity of approximately 60,000 units a year if it is to compete in Europe with such large-volume manufacturers as Mercedes and BMW.

The acquisition of Jaguar could make Ford the largest British auto maker. It now ranks a close second to the Rover Group. Ford of Britain employed 48,000 people last year and produced 508,000 cars and light trucks.

With its purchase of Jaguar, Ford is buying into a luxury market that it couldn't enter on its own. D1

BACKGROUND

Jaguar had humble origins. The company traces its roots back to a garage in Blackpool, northern England, where in 1922 William Walmsley started building flashy sidecars for motorcycles. The company branched out into cars and in 1927 announced the first Austin Swallow Two-Seater. The name Jaguar was introduced in 1935 with a new line that attempted to provide the style of the prestigious Bentley at a cheaper price. In 1945, the firm changed its name from Swallow Sidecar Co. to Jaguar Cars Ltd. In 1948, the celebrated Jaguar XK120 was recognized as the fastest car in the world. Jaguar's most famous mass-production sports car, the E-type, first appeared in 1961.

Ford could become the largest auto maker in Britain if stockholders of Jaguar, the legendary maker of prestige autos, accept Ford's $2.5 billion cash buyout offer.

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