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Not long ago, Ford's Premier Auto Group was filling the halls of a big office building in Irvine California. In recent years, Aston Martin, Land Rover and Jaguar were sent packing, and Lincoln dragged itself back to Detroit, leaving the halls lonely for sole survivor Volvo, which is also headed back to Rockleigh, New Jersey.

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Volvo and Mercedes-Benz have been known for decades as automotive safety pioneers, sharing between them the bulk of new innovations in the field. These days, however, automakers are as as concerned about their financial security as they are with occupant safety. With the latter in mind, reports indicate that Mercedes parent company Daimler has decided against buying Volvo from Ford.

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As Ford reportedly prepares to offload Volvo and dismantle the last remaining vestiges of its once proud Premier Automotive Group, reports indicate that discussions were, once again, held with Renault.

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Kirk Kerkorian's associate Jerry York stated last Thursday that Ford would do well to sell Volvo and extinguish Mercury. Coincidentally (or not) Ford's stock zoomed up to one of the highest price levels it's seen in the last six months. Tracinda Corporation, Kerkorian's firm, has expressed faith in Mulally's leadership and his plan to strengthen the automaker. There has been speculation about a sale of Volvo in the past, and punditry has been begging the Blue Oval to do something with Mercury, o

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