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Ford to sell Aston Martin

Thu, 31 Aug 2006

By Georg Kacher

Motor Industry

31 August 2006 02:39

The world’s two biggest luxury goods firms – including the conglomerate behind brands like Moet and Louis Vuitton – are locked in a battle to buy Aston Martin from cash-starved Ford.

Ford announced today that the British sports car manufacturer would be sold and CAR has learned that Swiss-based Richemont and the French holding company LVMH have emerged as most likely to take on Aston despite having no previous experience in the car industry.

Ford desperately needs to tap into the potential $700m-$1bn the sale of Aston could generate and hopes to finalise a deal by the end of the year. That deal would include the Aston name, the company’s facilities at Gaydon and Newport Pagnell, the full research and development department and the management including boss Ulrich Bez.

Contrary to rumour Ford hasn't spent a great deal on Aston since taking charge in 1993 and would actually make a reasonable return on its investment. Finding a buyer for Aston will certainly be easier than offloading stricken Jaguar and not just because of the far healthier books.

Apart from its engines, which it takes from Ford in Cologne, Aston is able to operate largely independently of Ford thanks to the low number of shared parts and technologies.

Jaguar on the other hand will have to be bundled together with Land Rover and Volvo just to persuade anyone to take it. A good thing you might think, but that would mean any buyer making a long term commitment to dealing with Ford – an unappealing prospect given the American’s perilous financial state.

Things are so bleak for Ford that even if it does manage to squeeze $1bn out of Aston’s buyer, the cheque will be a drop in the ocean of Ford debt. But the break up and sale of the Premier Automotive Group is a symbolic gesture by a Ford keen to show that it is taking important steps to reverse its fortunes.

By Georg Kacher