Having acquired Jaguar in 1989 for $2.4 billion and Land Rover in 2000 for $3 billion, Ford sold the two U.K. companies to India's Tata Motors for $2.3 billion -- less than half of what it had paid for them. The two companies were performing so poorly that one analyst derided Tata's move as "a vanity purchase." Jaguar never made a nickel in 19 years of Ford's ownership, while Land Rover seemed incapable of building vehicles of a quality commensurate with its upscale prices.
Thanks to surging sales in China, both Jaguar and Land Rover are thriving. Each posted record results in the last fiscal year, with sales up 29% from the previous year. Bloomberg figures the two brands are now worth $14 billion. Ford has done nearly as well but now faces a slowdown in China, a recession in Europe, and tough competition in North America.
Democrats and Republicans are debating that question today, but we may not know the answer for 10 or 15 years.