One of Ford's most senior executives has poured cold water on speculation that the company is planning to abandon Jaguar.
A sale of the loss-making West Midlands-based luxury brand has been touted by commentators since Ford announced last week that it had recruited former Goldman Sachs and Bank of America mergers and acquisitions specialist Kenneth Leet as adviser to group chairman and chief executive Bill Ford.
But comments by Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas and a former head of Ford of Europe, in the US yesterday suggested it would keep Jaguar, which sits alongside Land Rover, Aston Martin and Volvo in the group's Premier Automotive Group of luxury European brands.
Mr Fields, who is spear-heading Ford's North American restructuring plans which involve shutting 14 plants and cutting 30,000 manufacturing jobs, was asked about Jaguar's future after speaking at a seminar at the Centre for Automotive Research in Michigan.
He said Ford would position Jaguar as a "niche brand" after abandoning hopes a big growth in volumes driven by the X-Type "Baby Jag" which has been built at Halewood on Merseyside since 2001.
Jaguar is in a "rebuilding phase and we are recalibrating from our very high expectations of the late 1990s", Mr Fields added.
Although he stopped short of ruling out a sale, his comments were interpreted as meaning Ford is keeping faith with the iconic British carmaker which it bought for £1.6 billion in 1989.
Mr Fields' remarks were, in fact, a reiteration of the recovery programme that Jaguar began in 2004 amid continuing multi-million pound losses and falling sales.
Instead of chasing volume - previous bosses, including the former BMW executive Wolf-gang Reitzle thought X-Type would take annual sales to 200,000 against the 90,000 actually sold last year - it is now pursuing a business plan centred on selling fewer but more profitable higher margin vehicles.
The strategy is based on the fact that most Jaguar buyers love the cars so much they are willing to spend thousands of pounds more on specification list extras - £6,000 on average in the case of the new XK sports car - much of which is pure profit.
And it seems to be yielding results.
UK managing director Geoff Cousins said at the British International Motor Show last month that Jaguar's revenues and profits were improving.
A question mark hangs over a replacement for the X-Type, which ironically is beginning to sell in meaningful numbers in emerging markets such as Russia.
But Jaguar insiders say the product-led recovery will continue with the new S-Type due in 2008 which is expected to be radically different in design to the current unexciting-looking version.
Steven Blackman, head of the automotive unit at accountants and business advisers Ernst & Young, believes the recent speculation over Jaguar has been overdone and that the company will stay in Ford ownership.