Ford could be considering a separate sale of Jaguar and Land Rover as it begins to consider its options for the two luxury carmarkers, it was claimed yesterday.
Although the Detroit firm would prefer to sell the Midland carmakers together, it may prove easier to attract single buyers, according to an industry analyst, who asked not to be identified.
He said: "They are considering all options, including selling them separately."
Ford is keen not to rule out any buyers as its advisers - Morgan Stanley, HSBC and Goldman Sachs - begin contacting interested parties.
Among those in the running could be those who missed out in the auction of Aston Martin, which was sold for £479 million in March.
The analyst said this made it more likely the two brands would be sold separately.
He said: "Ford's absolute desire is to sell the two brands together, but the probability is that they will be sold separately. You cannot go into a transaction like this with only one exit route. You can only sell something somebody wants to buy.
"Ford has to be flexible in seeking the best owner for the business.
"That could mean to one or two buyers. There is a good possibility they could be separated and attract more bidders - both other car makers and private equity."
Both firms shared some technology and back office functions, but these could be untangled, it was claimed. Land Rover and Jaguar had separate brand identities and both appealed to different motorists.
The source said: "They share some of the same procurement, but are quite different products. The 4x4s of Land Rover and saloons of Jaguar don't share that many parts.
"Jaguar has more challenges than Land Rover in terms of where it sits in the market and its recent sales performance.
"Land Rover has an incredibly refreshed model range and its sales are up, while Jaguar has to refresh many of its models and its sales are down.
"The market believes there is good value in Land Rover, but someone buying them both may see Jaguar as a burden. A Jaguar buyer may prefer to have Land Rover along to even the problems out."
Private Equity companies Cereberus, which recently bought Chrysler from DaimlerChysler, and Doughty Hanson, which lost out to a Kuwaiti-backed consortium in the bid for Aston Martin, are among the private equity firms thought to be in the frame.
One Equity Partners, which includes Jac Nasser, the former Ford chief executive, could also be in the running.
Another industry source said: "We are going to see private equity going to come to the fore; there isn't a natural OEM bidder in this.
"I don't think Chinese companies are mature enough or have the capital, or resource base to acquire Jaguar Land Rover.
"I don't see any of the established European or North American OEMs interested - Ford is selling, GM is restructuring, and BMW has already sold Land Rover to Ford, and has its own products in the 4x4 and luxury market.
"The Japanese prefer to grow their own brands organically rather than acquiring them, which leaves only the Koreans.
"Hyundai has the sophistication, size and scale and looking to develop a European footprint. Buying Jaguar-Land Rover could be a way to move their brand upmarket and help them in America."
"These are luxury brands, and there is a real appetite for that in the market. A buyer will be interested in exploiting the brands, not just the cars.
"The price of Aston Martin reflected the brand. Ford showed with that deal they want to find the right home, which isn't necessarily about the highest offer."