Ford should consider selling its multi-billion dollar finance arm, or even Volvo, before offloading Jaguar as part of its global financial recovery strategy, an automotive industry expert has claimed.

And talk of Land Rover being bundled in with Jaguar as a "sweetener" for potential buyers should be discounted, according to Michael Wynn-Williams, an analyst with research company Trend Tracker. There has been speculation about Jaguar's future as part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group stable of European luxury brands since it was announced that former Goldman Sachs and Bank of America mergers and acquisitions expert Kenneth Leet had been recruited to carry out a strategic review of the group.

Ford, which like its Detroit rival General Motors has been badly hit by high labour costs and falling sales in its home market, brought in Mr Leech as a personal adviser to group chairman and chief executive B ill Ford following an unexpected $254 million (£134 million at current exchange rates) lurch back into the red in the second quarter.

British commentators have interpreted the move as meaning that Jaguar, which has consistently lost money since Ford bought it for £1.6 billion in 1989, will be sold.

Some have estimated the brand has a negative book value of £400 million.

Hyundai of South Korea and the Gaz group of Russia, which recently bought Birmingham vanmaker LDV and whose only car is the Soviet era Volga, have been put forward as prospective buyers.

But in a report entitled Jaguar's Part in Rescuing Ford , Mr Wynn-Williams argues that there will be no sale. Were it to sell Jaguar, he argues, Ford would "soon be joining the British company in falling off the cliff".

Mr Wynn-Williams said: "Jaguar is Ford's only defence against the rise of the premium brands.

"Survival for Jaguar is also a matter of do or die for Ford Motor Company. "The strengths of the Jaguar brand are the same now as they were when Ford management first walked through the gates at Browns Lane."

That's even though the company's motor racing heritage, engineering prowess and hugely improved build qualities have been offset by the uninspiring "retro" styling of some recent models such as the Birmingham-built S-Type.

Losses have to be staunched but the squeeze on the luxury car market make it even more pressing for Ford to possess a global premium brand.

"The truth is that the only company that really needs Jaguar is Ford. Jaguar's purpose is to bring 'tone' to what would otherwise be a common mass market brand."

A joint Jaguar/Land Rover sale would leave Ford's luxury car strategy "in tatters, bereft of both its European luxury brands", Mr Wynn-Williams goes on to say.

Alternatives would be a sell off of the Ford credit arm, which is valued at $12 billion (£6.3 billion), or Volvo - also part of PAG - which makes money but overlaps with Ford's own-badged models.

"The last thing Ford should be doing is reversing into its old mass market stamping ground, long ago relinquished to the Far East.

"Jaguar is the key to Ford's recovery, the two tied together in a symbiotic relationship."

H owever, Mr Wynn-Williams' suggestion that Ford could cut costs by moving Jaguar production to the US "its most important market" is wide of the mark.

Jaguar has declined to comment on the speculation, but a spokesman pointed out that rising sales of diesel powered XJ, S-Type and X-Type cars mean Britain is now its biggest market.