LONDON - Ford Motor Co. has named a team of Ford veterans to run Land Rover, the sport-utility brand it bought from BMW AG on May 24.
The team's mission will be to:
Reconstruct Land Rover as a quasi-independent business unit
Re-establish the brand as the world's leading sport-utility maker
Robert Dover, 55, now chairman of Ford's Aston Martin Lagonda unit, will become chairman and CEO of Land Rover. Dover will report to Wolfgang Reitzle, chairman and chief executive of Ford's Premier Automotive Group of luxury brands.
Dover and his team will be faced with the task of turning Land Rover into a profitable operation in two years.
Separating Land Rover from BMW and from the ailing Rover Cars unit - where it was grouped with Rover and MG - helped make the purchase difficult, Reitzle said.
'This was by definition one of the most difficult deals ever,' said Reitzle. 'Land Rover had almost no organization left. It was all rolled into BMW. To pull it out is not so easy.
'BMW didn't know what they wanted to sell and we didn't know what we wanted to buy.'
Land Rover built about 180,000 units in 1999 and Reitzle wants that figure to grow. He declined to set a target but said 300,000 units a year might be a reasonable long-term goal.
Land Rover will be added to Premier Automotive Group retail sites in selected markets. The Premier brands include Jaguar, Volvo, Aston Martin and Lincoln. Reitzle said there will be eight Premier 'flagship stores' in the USA opening this year.
The sale of Land Rover to Ford was praised by off-road enthusiasts.
When told of the appointment of Dover and the new Ford team, Ken Slavin, co-author of Land Rover: The Unbeatable 4X4, said: 'It's like taking a step back in time. With his (Dover's) experience we may get back to basics and get some good quality. That's been lacking.'
The Land Rover brand had been damaged under BMW, Slavin said. BMW failed to get a full understanding of either the manufacturing or marketing side of the Land Rover business, he added.
The Ford negotiating team was headed by Premier Automotive Group Chief Financial Officer William Cosgrove. He also led the working team that completed Ford's purchase of Volvo in 1999.
When BMW announced the sale of Land Rover to Ford in March, the two parties agreed a price of A3 billion. But by the time the deal was sealed at the end of May, the euro's depreciation against the US dollar saved Ford about $248 million. But, John Lawson, analyst for Salomon Smith Barney in London, said BMW did not lose anything since most of its expenses are in euros.