NICK SCHEELE, Ford Motor Co.'s chief operating officer, supposedly blundered last autumn by telling reporters that Jaguar would lose about $500 million in 2002.
But if Scheele erred why has Ford decided to start reporting earnings at Jaguar and all other members of the Premier Automotive Group?
The fact is Scheele didn't make a mistake. He did a service to shareholders. He provided them with a much-needed number.
Beginning with the announcement of Ford's first-quarter numbers on April 16, PAG's profit and loss results no longer will be hidden within Ford of Europe's results.
There are important reasons why the financial performance of Jaguar, Volvo, Land Rover and Aston Martin should be made known. For one, the company says it is relying on the Premier Automotive Group to generate one-third of its profits by mid-decade.
Jaguar's unsuspected loss was alarming - but shareholders needed to know about it. Yet without the kind of information that goes along with standard financial reporting Scheele's comments led to nervous talk about the future of Jaguar.
By making an honest, open accounting of the luxury-car group, Ford can avoid a certain amount of rumor and speculation about its PAG's operations.
The new openness is also good for the various subsidiaries within the Premier Group. It helps them carve out an identity within the corporation. It would give Volvo employees, for example, a morale boost to see their bottom line contribution to the Ford Motor Co. made public.
By the way, a look at Jaguar financials could also help answer an old and fascinating question. Who got it right in 1988, Toyota or Ford?
It's widely understood that Toyota spent $5 billion to launch Lexus. At about the same time Ford spent $2.5 billion to buy Jaguar. It then had to spend billions more to fix it.
Which luxury-car strategy has worked out best?
We'll never know for sure because Toyota doesn't break out Lexus' results. But Jaguar's performance can now be judged objectively.
Ford's decision is another sign that the industry is no longer willing to coddle specialty brands and protect them from scrutiny. General Motors President Rick Wagoner recently admitted that GM "overtrained" on brand purity in its handling of Saab over the past 12 years.
Great brands are great to own, but they must pay for themselves.