By Jorn Madslien
Business reporter, BBC News
The Big Cat and its sibling need looking after
After months of talks, the legendary British luxury marques Jaguar and Land Rover have been adopted.
Its new parent is a huge Indian conglomerate aptly named Tata, the word for daddy or father in a string of languages including Latin, Serbo-Croat, Polish and Zulu.
The takeover has been warmly welcomed by workers after they secured job and pension guarantees for the two companies' 15,300-strong workforce, as well as guarantees on sourcing agreements.
"With the commitments Tata have given to the future of Jaguar Land Rover... we're obviously pleased they are in the game," says Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of the UK's biggest union Unite.
"Tata is a forward-looking global company," agrees Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Motor Group. "I welcome today's announcement."
The English patient
In Italy, the word Tata has a different meaning, namely big sister or governess, also apt since the company's main challenge will be to nurse the loss-making Big Cat back to financial health.
Since 2002, when Jaguar sold 130,000 cars, sales have halved, and the slide continues.
In Europe, Jaguar's sales slumped more than 25% in February when compared with the same period last year, while in its key market, the US, sales have fallen more than 33% so far this year when compared with the same period in 2007.
Land Rover, though profitable, is not doing much better. In the US, sales fell almost 10% in February when compared with that period last year, while in Europe sales slipped 12%.
Nevertheless, the $2.3bn (£1.15bn) price-tag put on the two carmakers represents "a bargain compared to the prices paid by Ford almost 20 years ago", according to Global Insight automotive analyst Rebecca Wright.
Ford paid $2.5bn for Jaguar in 1989 and $2.7 billion for Land Rover in 2000, and is believed to have invested an additional $10bn.
"For Tata, therefore, the picture is considerably more positive," Ms Wright reasons. "Ironically for Ford, Jaguar and Land Rover are now looking in better shape than ever before."
Both carmakers have wowed the motoring press with their new models in recent months, both clear signs that they are fully topped up with Ford investment.
Jaguar's latest XF model is seen as a very worthy replacement for the S-class and the hope is that it - along with a replacement for its more upmarket XJ model - will do much to revive sales.
Land Rover's small LRX concept, which was first unveiled in Detroit in January, was also greeted with cheers.
For Ford, then, saying ta-ta to the two siblings "will be bittersweet", observes Ms Wright.
With new models coming on-stream, the firms are in good shape
Not only does the American automotive giant need the money from the sale, after having suffered global losses of $2.7bn in 2007 and a record $12.6bn in 2006.
It also desperately needs to pass the British legends onto someone with deeper pockets.
"Ford needs to rid itself of some of the considerable research and development expenditure it would otherwise have had to pump into the two brands," says Ms Wright, not least since the European Union will require all carmakers in Europe to lower the average carbon dioxide emissions of their fleets to 130 g/km by 2012 or face large fines.
"Neither Jaguar or Land Rover is very well placed in the race to significantly lower the average emissions of their respective ranges."
In Indonesian, the word Tata means order, arrangement or system.
And as Jaguar and Land Rover joins the Tata family, it will be slotted neatly into a global corporate empire spanning a slew of sectors, from IT to tea production to steel. And, obviously, automotive through Tata Motors.
"We are very pleased at the prospect of Jaguar and Land Rover being a significant part of our automotive business," says Ratan Tata, who is the chairman both of Tata Group and of Tata Motors.
"We will endeavour to preserve and build on their heritage and competitiveness, keeping their identities intact."
To this end, the Tata machine stands ready for deployment.
High-end research and development projects are expected to involve Tata's existing partners at Warwick University, where Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya has founded the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG).
This should help preserve the value of the Jaguar brand in particular - a brand that could lose its cache if customers sensed that standards were slipping.
Tata's engineering capabilities have landed commissions for work to be carried out on behalf of automotive firms Volkswagen and Porsche, as well as for Ford and Chrysler, on the sales and marketing side it is in talks with Iveco and Fiat.
Moreover, the conglomerate's industrial breadth means it is by no means limited to ventures in the automotive industry.
Through the University of Warwick it is also linked with industrial giants such as BAE Systems, Dassault Systemes, and SAP, as well as Symantec, GE Healthcare and IBM.
And the German industrial giant Daimler - which owns carmakers Mercedes and Smart as well as a stake in aerospace giant EADS - holds a small Tata stake.
But best of all for Tata, the pain of pouring cash into Jaguar and Land Rover will be mitigated by the fact they can then apply the resulting technology to improve its own models in India, helping it steal a march on rivals both at home and internationally.