Is a successful end in sight for Jaguar Land Rover’s long-fought campaign to persuade the Government to underwrite its loans and help it weather the recession?
Or is today’s encouraging news yet another false dawn in a saga that has dragged on long after other governments implemented measures to support their own car industries?
This newspaper believes there are grounds for cautious optimism this week.
First, the ‘mood music’ emanating from both Whitehall and Bombay House – Tata’s HQ in India – is distinctly more upbeat and conciliatory.
The acrimony that flavoured recent leaks and briefings as little as a week ago has been replaced by messages that brim with optimism and good intent. Next, Tata itself has emerged from under the shadow of a less than helpful credit rating, making it a much more attractive proposition for commercial lenders.
That has had the fortunate effect of effectively letting the Government off the hook when it comes to guaranteeing the £350 million loan offered by the European Investment Bank.
The remaining £175 working capital loan guarantee now seems so much more attainable – and the Government is desperate to be seen to be supportive of UK industry.
So all the ingredients could be in place for a settlement before the end of the summer.
But any thought that the war is won and the company can return to normal would be unfounded.
As Tata makes clear, it expects its UK subsidiary to adopt a philosophy that has seen this Indian business empire endure and thrive since the 1920s.
That ethos is based on the belief that a company’s prime ambition is ‘to live forever’.
Everything else – short term profit included – is merely a means to this end.
JLR now has a chance – perhaps its first and only in a century – to make this dream a reality.
It won’t be a painless process, and there are some difficult decisions to make along the way, but these great British brands may just be on the brink of a new era of technological and commercial success that few would have believed possible in the UK car industry just a few years ago.