NOVEMBER 26, 2007
An interesting alliance
There was a time when the names Jac Nasser and Wolfgang Reitzle were heard regularly in Formula 1 circles. Nasser was the boss of the Ford Motor Company between the start of 1999 and the end of 2001 and it was during his reign that Ford bought Stewart Grand Prix and transformed it into Jaguar Racing. Nasser hired BMW executive Wolfgang Reitzle to run what was known as the Premier Automotive Group (PAG) which included Jaguar, Aston Martin, Volvo and Land Rover but he did not stay long after Nasser's departure and has since been involved with the industrial group Linde. The team survived only until the end of 2004 when Ford sold Jaguar Racing to Red Bull and the team became known as Red Bull Racing.
Since leaving Ford Nasser has been involved with a private equity group called One Equity Partners, which manages $5bn of investments for JPMorgan Chase & Co.
It is interesting to note therefore that One Equity is one of the bidders for Jaguar and Land Rover, which are currently being sold off by Ford. And it is equally interesting to note that Nasser has asked Reitzle to help him out if the two brands are acquired by One Equity. It is by no means certain that the bid will be successful as there is strong competition from Indian car companies Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra.
The price is expected to be as low as $1.5bn, which is a real bargain considering that Ford acquired Jaguar for $2.5bn in 1989 and added Land Rover for $2.75bn in 2000. Jaguar has not been a bargain for Ford as the company is reckoned to have spent as much as $10bn during its ownership of the brand.
Oddly Jaguar's potential is now higher than ever. The exciting new C-XF model is being launched and Land Rover is selling better than ever. The two brands now produce 261,000 cars a year at three different plants.
The new Jaguar C-XF represents a major departure from traditional Jaguar thinking with the plan being to sell around 100,000 cars a year beginning at $50,000. This would return Jaguar to its original position as an exclusive, low-volume manufacturer of high-quality premium sporting cars. Whether such a company could ever support an F1 programme is another matter but obviously a sporting image would help to sell the cars.
The unions say they would prefer to see Tata win the bidding. Tata Motors is India's largest automobile manufacturing company. It is big in the bus business but is keen to get its hands on a luxury automobile brand as these tend to be much more profitable than the mass market cars it currently builds. It is also keen to have a bigger presence in Europe.