Premier Automotive Group's British brands will merge this week as part of a radical restructuring at Ford's luxury-car division.
Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin will be governed by a board of directors as part the reorganization, sources say.
An 'operating committee' of Premier Automotive Group executives, formed October 31, will be reconstituted as a board of directors later this week. The names of the board members will be disclosed then. Executive reassignments under the new corporate structure for the British brands will be made in December, a source said.
Several Premier Automotive Group study teams formed in early October will report to the British board. The teams are examining how to combine the three brands' engineering, platforms, powertrains, design, manufacturing, distribution, sales, marketing and back-shop areas.
The study teams will make their suggestions to the board in December, a source said.
One Premier Automotive Group source said the move would not eliminate the individuality of the brands. But insiders say that former Jaguar Managing Director Jonathan Browning's recent departure was related to his belief that reporting to the new board would weaken the carefully nurtured Jaguar brand.
Browning's replacement, Mike Beasley, has less authority than Browning did. That has led to fears that decisions affecting Jaguar directly will be made by the board and not Jaguar executives.
In addition, a Jaguar insider worries that the British brands have little in common other than location. Aston Martin is a boutique carmaker; Land Rover is fixing its basic business and build quality; and Jaguar is in growth mode, he said.
There are also signs that the British brands will combine their operations far beyond just a board of directors. That leads to comparisons with the British Leyland days, when Jaguar was combined with other troubled British automakers under government ownership.
Bob Dover, who had been chairman of Land Rover, has added the Jaguar presidency, and is expected to get a similar title at Aston Martin, a source said.
Both Dover and Volvo Car President Hans-Olov Olsson were elevated to Ford Motor Co. vice presidents.
Under the Ford restructuring, Ford Chief Technical Officer Richard Parry-Jones will be the top product development executive for Premier Automotive Group. He will be based in England but has added responsibility for Mazda as well. Parry-Jones will report to Premier Chairman Wolfgang Reitzle.
Reitzle says he will stay at Ford even though Jacques Nasser, the man who created Premier Automotive Group and hired Reitzle to run it, has been fired. Ford has pledged to pay Reitzle a $5 million (E5.7 million) bonus if he stays with the company until 2006.
'What we are seeing are key steps leading to a structure other than the one they have with Premier Automotive Group. The building blocks are being put in place,' said industry analyst Karl Ludvigsen in London. 'It makes terrific sense to make Premier Automotive Group a single business unit with three brands.'
Volvo's role in a reshaped Premier Automotive Group is unclear. Volvo's future product lineup has more in common with Ford of Europe than it does with the three British brands.
But Volvo product development boss Hans Gustavsson is expected to be appointed executive director of 'commonality programs' at Premier. He will report to Parry-Jones.
Combining engineering operations
Meanwhile, Reitzle said recently that Lincoln would be part of Ford's restructuring in North America. If Lincoln is folded back into North American Operations it would leave the three British brands and Sweden's Volvo as Premier Automotive Group members.
On the operations side, Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin will combine their engineering operations at Land Rover's Gaydon, England, headquarters. In addition, the three brands' design teams will work from the same styling studio in London, called Ingeni.
Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin operations have already been combined in North America and Japan. Several executives have control over disciplines for all three brands.
Ford Motor Co. also is undergoing a massive restructuring, laying off thousands of white-collar workers in America. Although Premier Automotive Group is expected to be a major contributor to Ford's turnaround, Ford is looking at ways to consolidate white-collar headcount at the British brands as well, a source said. Putting Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin under one corporate structure will help.