Ford's growing stable of luxury marques

The Land Rover name will fill a niche in Ford's growing portfolio of car marques.

The American giant - the world's second biggest car-builder after General Motors - is no longer simply a maker of the family saloons that forged its name both here and in the United States.

It boasts four luxury brands in its stable - Jaguar, Aston Martin, the American Lincoln marque and Volvo, which Ford bought in a £3.7 billion deal in March last year.

At the time of the Volvo acquisition, Ford chief executive Jac Nasser said his company wanted to boost its luxury car output from 250,000 in 1998 to 750,000 this year.

"Our aim is to grow the company in luxury segments," said Nasser at the time, adding that the Volvo deal would benefit the company by "economies of scale".

The sales target will much more easily be reached as Land Rover and Range Rover arrive under Ford's famous oval blue badge, where they are likely to join the other four luxury names in Ford's new Premier Auto Group.

Ford has not been strong in the European off-road and luxury utility vehicles - so beloved by the wealthy urban family for the school-run and supermarket trip - so Land Rover will add a complementary arm to its range.

Ford has also been linked with several other major takeovers.

It has confirmed that it will launch a bid for Daewoo Motors, the ailing South Korean carmaker, but is also believed to be keeping a close eye on overtures to Italy's Fiat Auto by DaimlerChrysler and other companies, and may step in with an offer of its own.

There was even speculation that Nasser tried to buy BMW last year after the company suffered a purge of senior executives, but was rebuffed by the Quant family which controls a large stake in the Munich company.

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