Every villain needs a sidekick, and if there were ever a villain character in the soap opera that is the North American auto industry, it's 91-year-old billionaire Kirk Kerkorian who recently revealed that his private holding company, Tracinda Corp., was buying up Ford stock like he knew something the rest of us didn't. Kerkorian's sidekick in this saga is Jerry York, an ex-auto exec who the billionaire placed on GM's board of directors back when he was pushing for an alliance between the biggest of the Big 3 and Nissan/Renault.

York has revealed that he met with Ford CEO Alan Mulally after Tracinda Corp. began buying up Blue Oval stock and expressed his confidence in the executive's plan to turn around Ford. He also said that if it were him at the helm, both Mercury and Volvo would be sold. York thinks that Mulally will likely put Volvo up for sale in the next 18 months, but there's a bit more analysis to be done on whether or not to sell Mercury.

While Volvo might command a pretty penny on the open market for its brand cachet and expertise in the area of safety, we're not sure there's much demand out there for Mercury. We suspect that Ford is faced with the same question that GM was when it scuttled Oldsmobile: kill it or keep the lights on? Like Oldsmobile, Mercury is seen as a brand of rebadged vehicles so intertwined with its parent company that no potential buyer would want to deal with the long, expensive process of extricating it from Ford and starting over. But York thinks Ford might be able to get something for it, which doesn't say a lot to us about Kirkorian's sidekick.

UPDATE:
Ford issued a press release saying that Volvo is not for sale and that it continues to invest in Mercury. Lewis Booth, Volvo's CEO, also reiterated that his brand's not going anywhere.

[Source: Automotive News, sub. req'd]

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