India's largest conglomerate, the Tata group, has been named as the favoured bidder in the battle for control of the Jaguar and Land Rover brands.
Both luxury British marques were placed on the market by current owner Ford after the American car manufacturing giant was unable to ensure their sustained profitability.
The companies had been available as a joint package since June 2007, with several key bidders still in the field.
However, today Ford said the company had now officially selected Tata as its preferred bidder, and has subsequently committed to talks "at a more detailed level" with the company over the potential sale.
Furthermore Tata's bid has been endorsed by the trade union Unite, which represents the majority of both companies' employees.
Yet stiff competition will remain until the completion of the bid.
A rival Indian firm, Mahindra and Mahindra, remains in the bidding and was quick to stress earlier today the deal with Tata was not complete.
However, Ford remains confident the details can be finalised.
"There is still considerable work to do and while no final decision has been made, we will proceed with further substantive discussions with Tata Motors over the forthcoming weeks," said Lewis Booth, Ford executive vice president with responsibility for Ford Europe.
Commenting on the position a Tata spokesperson added: "We are pleased by the progress in the discussions to date and are very positive about the prospects of this business going forward."
The Tata approach has also been enhanced by global financial insecurity.
A bid from One Equity, a subsidiary of the US bank JP Morgan Chase, appears to have run into trouble after the credit crunch in global financial markets reduced the chances of an equity-financed bid.