January 24, 2009 at 1:00 am

Ford may start Volvo sale in Feb.

Ford Motor Co., the only U.S. automaker to forgo government loans, will begin seeking buyers for its Volvo luxury brand next month and expects to draw bids from Chinese carmakers, said a person familiar with the plan.

Sales documents will be sent to prospective buyers in the middle of February, said the person, who declined to be identified because the details aren't public. Ford is considering a sale of Volvo as part of a strategic evaluation of the Gothenburg, Sweden-based unit, spokesman Mark Truby said. He declined to comment on possible buyers.

Ford, which bought Volvo for $6.4 billion in 1999, plans to sell assets and combine production platforms globally to ensure the Dearborn-based carmaker survives the worst U.S. car market since 1992. Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally is trying to avoid tapping a $9 billion government credit line.

"It's not an ideal time for a sale, but obviously there's a need for cash," said Alan Baum, director of automotive forecasting for Planning Edge in Birmingham, Mich.

"Chinese buyers may be the only ones because there is overlap with European rivals, and India's Tata Motor Ltd. has its hands full with Jaguar and Land Rover," said Baum.

Chinese bidders may include SAIC Motor Corp., China's largest carmaker, Chery Automobile Co., and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co.