Mumbai: Ford Motor Company today said that it would focus on Tata Motors as the preferred bidder and prospective suitor for its two UK-brands Jaguar and Land Rover.
Lewis Booth, Ford executive vice president with responsibility for Europe said, "Ford is committed to focused negotiations at a more detailed level with Tata Motors concerning the potential sale of the combined Jaguar / Land Rover business.''
Though it has long held the Tatas as owners that would invest in the two brands in the future, Ford had so far refrained from indicating its preference from among other the other potential buyers.
Ford's talks with Tata are not formally exclusive, and private equity firm One Equity and Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M), are still in the race. However, Ford has announced that it is committed to holding substantive discussions with Tata Motors over the course of the coming weeks.
Tata Motors said it was entering into a detailed discussion with Ford and was hopeful of a a final deal. A spokesman said that the company hoped to reach an agreement in the forthcoming weeks, "though these are complex discussions and there is still much work that needs to be done before that position is reached."
The UK unions of Jaguar and Land Rover had announced their backing for the Tata Group in November 2007 and have been prevailing upon the management to be inclined towards the Tatas, as they feel the workers' best interests would be served by a partner with an established presence and background in manufacturing.
Roger Maddison, the national secretary of Unite, the Jaguar Land Rover Trade Union, today told CNBC-TV18 that the union is using its influence on the management to back Tata Motors, as ''the Tatas do not foresee any problem with regards to pension.''
The views of the unions are important to Ford Motors, which has other manufacturing sites in the UK.
Ford has all along been saying that its discussions with potential buyers would be in the overall interests of the businesses to be sold, while informing the unions that Ford's final decision would be ''in the best interests of Jaguar, Land Rover, and Ford.''