British Union Welcomes Tata Takeover

Unite leader would have liked to keep the emblematic brands in the family, but was pleased that jobs would be safeguarded

An ownership change for Jaguar and Land Rover, once emotive emblems of the British auto industry, from Ford to Tata Motors was greeted with approval but regret by a union here on Wednesday.

The Unite union welcomed the sale by Ford of the United States to Tata given an undertaking that jobs would be saved, but the union's joint leader Tony Woodley said that the switch was "a big disappointment."

Woodley said in remarks which jumped the gun before an official announcement by the companies that Ford had agreed to sell the two businesses to Tata.

Tata Motors later confirmed in New Delhi that it had bought the British luxury icons for 2.3 billion dollars in cash.

Unite general secretary Woodley said he was "pleased" Tata was buying the brands and safeguarding about 16,000 jobs in Britain. Commenting on Ford's planned sale, he said: "That is a big disappointment."

Woodley added: "We would have much preferred Ford to keep the companies in the family, so to speak, especially with Land Rover being so profitable.

"But with the commitments Tata have given to the future of Jaguar Land Rover and the long-term supply agreements for components, especially engines from Bridgend and Dagenham (Ford sites in Britain), we're obviously pleased they are in the game."

Ford announced it was selling Jaguar and Land Rover last year as part of a restructuring after the US group posted a record loss of almost 13 billion dollars.

Tata was expected to keep the current business plans of Jaguar and Land Rover through 2011 and retain Jaguar's headquarters in Coventry, central England, according to British union officials.

Land Rover—also based in central England and which is celebrating its 60th anniversary—has been largely profitable for Ford since the US group took it over in 2000.

Its first model was the 4x4 vehicle that bore the company's name, while Land Rover has also made the Range Rover, the Freelander and the Discovery.

Jaguar—the sleek car which dates back to 1945—has been less profitable for Ford since it was bought in 1989. Its vehicles are made at three plants across central and northwest England, while famous models have included the E-type and the long-running XJ series.

Britain enjoys a largely successful car-making industry thanks to foreign investment. Japanese car giants Nissan, Toyota and Honda each run large plants in the country.

German manufacturer BMW is meanwhile enjoying successful production of the Mini in Cowley, central England. Last year, however, French car group Peugeot shut its plant in Coventry—the same region that suffered after MG Rover went bankrupt in 2005.

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