DETROIT, Michigan (AP) — Aston Martin, the icon of luxury sports cars made famous in James Bond movies, has been put up for sale by the struggling Ford Motor Co., the company said Thursday.
Ford said in a statement that it is exploring the sale of all or part of the British-based carmaker, in part to raise capital for its other brands.
British-based Aston Martin makes about 5,000 cars a year. They cost upward of $100,000 each.
“As part of our ongoing strategic review, we have determined that Aston Martin may be an attractive opportunity to raise capital and generate value,” Bill Ford, the automaker’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement.
He said the Aston Martin’s dealer network, design and size are different from other Ford brands and the most logical choice for possible sale.
Ford said no decisions have been made about its other luxury car brands, which include Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo.
“We continue to be encouraged by Jaguar’s progress and by the strength and consumer appeal of the Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo product lineups” Bill Ford said.
But Ford spokesman Tom Hoyt said that doesn’t mean the company won’t sell the brands.
“We’re still taking a look at all aspects of the business, as Bill Ford has said. Everything’s on the table,” Hoyt said.
Ford shares rose 10 cents to close at $8.37 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Aston Martin has its headquarters, research and production facilities in Gaydon, England. Last month the company celebrated production of its 30,000th car.
Ford bought 75 percent of the company in 1987 and acquired full ownership in 1994, Hoyt said. In 1992, the company made only 46 vehicles, he said, but it now makes about 5,000 cars per year.
He declined to reveal a potential sales price.
Kip Penniman, an analyst with KDP Investment Advisors in Montpelier, Vt., said any sale of Aston Martin would be more about Ford trying to focus on its core brands rather than raising capital.
“They’re certainly not desperate for capital,” he said. “I think what they’re trying to do is pare down their product portfolio so they can achieve a better focus on the brands that are their mainstays.”
At the end of June, Ford reported having $23.6 billion in cash.
Penniman said Ford does not report Aston Martin earnings separately from its own, so it would be difficult to judge how much the company contributes to Ford’s bottom line. But the amount would be “immaterial,” he said.
The sale makes sense because Aston Martin vehicles have unique platforms and don’t share many features with other Ford vehicles, Penniman said. The downside is that a lot of technology comes from development of high-end vehicles, he said.
Aston Martin models sell for $110,000 to $175,000 in the United States.
In Britain, Dave Osborne, the Transport and General Workers Union’s national secretary for the car industry, said the union’s priority remains safeguarding members’ jobs while the future for Aston Martin is under review.
“We understand that consideration of the sale of Aston Martin is part of Ford’s strategic review, where all options are on the table but no decisions have yet been made,” he said. “Aston Martin is an iconic brand and is rightly prized by Ford.”
In July, Ford pledged to speed up and possibly deepen its North American turnaround plan.
Dearborn-based Ford’s “Way Forward” plan, launched in January, calls for shedding 25,000 to 30,000 jobs and closing 14 plants by 2012 to help return its North American automotive operations to profitability.
The company may offer buyouts and early retirement packages to more of its production workers to reduce its hourly work force, and it also is considering sale of its credit arm.
Details on further cuts are expected after a September 14 board meeting.