Jaguar bosses refused to be drawn into a wave a speculation about the carmaker's future yesterday despite newspaper reports that Ford was negotiating to sell the loss-maker.
The Premier Automotive Group company, which builds three of its four models at Castle Bromwich, Birmingham, was linked with a number of suitors, including Hyundai of Korea, Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, whose Gaz automotive group last week bought Birmingham vanmaker LDV for a reported £50 million, Peugeot and Toyota.
One report even claimed that Ford was also putting Land Rover up for sale along with Jaguar as part of a farreaching shake-out of its operations.
Jaguar is believed to have racked up operating losses in the order of £1 billion since Ford took it over in 1989.
Rumours have been rife within the automotive industry recently that the Detroit group, which is fighting to combat heavy financial losses and falling sales in its home US market, is looking for a buyer.
The speculation was given fresh impetus last week when it announced that Kenneth Leet, a former mergers and acquisitions specialist with Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, had been recruited as personal adviser to Ford chairman and chief executive Bill Ford.
Mr Leet's official brief is to "explore a broad range of strategic alternatives" to Ford's existing turnaround plan which centres on shutting 14 plants and axeing 30,000 hourly-paid jobs in North America.
UK commenatators and automotive analysts have seized on Mr Leet's appointment as signalling the end of the road for Jaguar as a Ford company. They point to the fact that last year Jaguar sold just under 90,000 cars, way short of the 200,000 target set when the company attempted to boost volumes with the Merseyside-built X-Type, the so-called "baby Jag" designed to woo a new generation of younger customers.
Critics say that Ford has lost patience with Jaguar's inability to turn a profit despite having absorbed capital investments of the order of £4 billion.
But that is far from being the consensus. Others point to the fact that Ford has recently signed off the development costs of a new version of the S-Type saloon, which is due in 2008, and has put Jaguar's technical centre at Whitley, Coventry, at the heart of a £1 billion plan to develop a new generation of eco-friendly engines.
Within Jaguar itself, the word is that a revised business plan drawn up in 2004, when it became apparent that volumes would never hit the targets set by former PAG boss Wolfgang Reitzle who thought X-Type would rival the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C Class, is beginning to yield results.
The plan centres on selling fewer cars while concentrating on marketing higher margin, more-profitable models at the top end of each of Jaguar's market segments.
"Everything in the newspapers today is pure speculation and we do not comment on speculation," a Jaguar spokesman said.