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Ford CEO Mulally says Jaguar not for sale

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DETROIT, Jan 7, 2007; Poornima Gupta writing for Reuters reported that Ford Motor Co.'s British luxury division Jaguar is not for sale, Chief Executive Alan Mulally said on Sunday.

"Jaguar is not for sale at this time," Mulally told reporters on the sidelines of the North American International Auto Show.

"We really like the progress Jaguar is making both on the product side and on their quality and productivity," he said. "They are on a really good positive business improvement plan."

Mulally, who replaced Bill Ford Jr. as CEO in September, had earlier declined to rule out the sale of money-losing Jaguar and other premium brands in its portfolio.

Ford, which is in the midst of its third restructuring in five years, has said its British sports car unit Aston Martin was for sale. But analysts are keen to see the company sell Jaguar.

Jaguar managing director Bibiana Boerio said she is focused on resurrecting Jaguar's vehicle line-up and does not worry about a possible sale of the company.

"I don't spend a minute a minute worrying about that," she said. "I can't control it. Ford will take the action it needs to take."

Ford bought Jaguar, an iconic British brand known for its leaping cat hood ornament, for $2.82 billion in 1989 but has struggled to make money with the brand since.

Jaguar's sales are down nearly 32 percent for 2006 in the United States, the company's largest market.

Ford's luxury division, called Premier Automotive Group, is expected to post a loss for 2006. Jaguar remains the biggest drag on the division's results.

Ford, overall, lost about $7 billion in the first three quarters of 2006. Further losses are forecast in the October-December quarter and beyond as it continued to lose U.S. market share to Asian rivals led by Toyota Motor Corp.

Ford Chairman Bill Ford, speaking during a press conference at the auto show, characterized 2006 as a "difficult year and said 2007 was a "pivotal year" for the automaker.

Speaking at the same event, Mulally, who was hired away from aircraft maker Boeing Co., said Ford's U.S. vehicle line-up will include more crossover vehicles and small cars and the company will continue investing in its European luxury brands.