In the last few years, the Ford brands have been shrinking. They have gotten rid of Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, and most recently the Volvo brand, and now it seems that the Mercury brand may be the next on the “chopping block”.

Ford officials would not confirm reports that the company was thinking of shutting down Mercury, but they have admitted to plans to shrink the lineup in an effort to make Lincoln the featured brand for the company. The Mercury brand has just four vehicles, the mid-size Milan sedan, the Mariner and Mountaineer SUVs and the giant Grand Marquis sedan. Production of the Grand Marquis will end when Ford closes their Canadian factory next year.

In a previous interviews, Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally said he was looking at ways to reorganize the company to be more global. That included cutting brands and slicing the number of vehicles Ford produces, and then using those platforms to build cars that can be sold around the world. The new Ford Fiesta that is going on sale in the U.S. this summer is nearly identical to the one already sold in Europe. The same will hold true for the new-generation Ford Focus slated to roll out early next year.

Ford Motor Co. will be investing $135 million at two Michigan plants that will help introduce five new models by 2012. Ford said it will begin selling two electric vehicles and three new hybrids to meet the new U.S. fuel economy standards. Ford plans to introduce a gasoline-electric version of its Lincoln MKZ sedan and an electric versions of the Transit Connect van this year, and the Focus electric car in 2011.

The investment will result in 220 new jobs by 2012, Ford said, including 130 hourly jobs at a trans-axle plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., and 40 hourly jobs at a Ypsilanti plant that will build battery packs. Fifty engineering jobs will be added as well.

Ford has eliminated 47 percent of its North American workforce since 2006, and had 70,000 workers in the region at the end of the first quarter. The company has cut costs and overhauled its model lineup to become less dependent on sport- utility vehicles and pickup trucks. The automaker ended three years of losses with a $2.7 billion profit last year as the U.S. auto market fell to the lowest level in 27 years.

Below are some of the automobile recalls for April 2010:

  • Volvo is recalling certain model 2010 XC90 vehicle for a fuel line leak that could develop in the fuel line at the right front wheel. Dealers will inspect the date code of the fuel line and will replace it free of charge if needed. The recall is expected to begin during May. Owners may contact Volvo at 1-800-458-1552.
  • The Braun Corporation is recalling some 2008-2010 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan commercial enter vans altered between January 21, 2009 and March 19, 2010. When the vehicles were converted for wheelchair accessibility, the fuel fill pipe was exposed close to the left rear tire. This may result in wear on the tire resulting in loss of tire pressure which could lead to an accident, or a vehicle fire if the fuel fill pipe becomes worn. Braun will notify owners and repair the vehicles free of charge. The safety recall is expected to begin during May 2010. Owners may contact Braun toll-free at 1-800-488-0359.
  • BMW is recalling certain 2010 X5 M SAV vehicle because they do not comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards No. 108. (Lamps, reflective devices and associated equipment) These vehicle were equipped with side marker lamps, but are not wired for illumination. BMW has not yet provided a remedy or an owner notification schedule for this campaign. Owners may contact BMW at 800-525-7417.
  • Hino is recalling some 2008-2010 NV8J trucks with Allison 3000 RDS automatic transmission. The drive coupler bolts could shear due to improper tightening during the manufacturing process. The manufacturer has not yet provided an owner notification schedule or a remedy for this campaign. Owners may contact Hino at 1-248-699-9330.
  • Workhorse is recalling certain model year 2010 W42, W62 and model year 2011 W22 trucks and built with a General Motors gasoline engine and equipped with Remy alternator. A low resistance electrical short in the alternator may result in a vehicle fire. Dealers will inspect and replace the alternator if necessary free of charge. The recall is expected to begin during May 2010. Owners may contact Workhorse at 1-877-246-7731.
  • Ford is recalling some 2010 Fusion, Explorer, Explorer Sport Trac, Mercury Milan and mountaineer vehicles manufactured between December 15, 2009 – February 3, 2010 for head restraints that do not comply with vehicle safety standards. In a crash, the head restraint may move rearward increasing the risk of neck injury. Dealers will replace the manual recliners for both power and manual seats free of charge. The safety recall began on May 3, 2010. Owners may contact Ford at 1-866-436-7332.

Ford Motor Co. will be recalling almost 33,500 of its 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans built from December 11-February 3 in Hermosilo, Mexico, and some 2010 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer SUV’s built from December 15-February 3 in Louisville, Kentucky. There have not been any reported injuries, but a potentially faulty front seat recliner mechanism could fail during a collision, which may lead to injuries.

The automaker said it expects to begin notifying owners of the recall by letter on April 30.

Mazda’s long time relationship with Ford is weakening as Mazda looks to Toyota for hybrid drive train technology. In the past Mazda has used Ford’s hybrid system in its sport-utility vehicle, the Tribute, but because Mazda plans to make their new hybrid car in Japan, they decided to lease the technology from Toyota instead. Masaharu Yamaki, Mazda’s executive vice-president, said the group had chosen Toyota’s technology over Ford’s because, “We need to procure components quickly and reliably from domestic suppliers.” The agreement which the two companies had been negotiating since last spring, will include hybrid components such as control systems, inverters and the regenerative braking mechanism.

Takeshi Uchiyamada, Toyota’s executive vice-president, said the Mazda deal would help lower production costs for Toyota’s own hybrid cars by expanding the market for shared components. As a result, “We hope that the cost of parts will fall and new innovations will emerge.”

Some final documentation, financing and government approvals are the only thing holding back Fords sale of Volvo to major automaker Geely Holding Group, which would make Volvo the first major automaker to become Chinese owned. Ford expects the formal signing of the sales documents will take place in the first quarter of 2010 with the deal being closed in the second quarter.

Ford will continue to work with Volvo Cars “in several areas” after the sale but will have no financial interest in Volvo. The sale would ensure Volvo has the resources and capital necessary to strengthen the business and build its global franchise. Ford will focus on and implement its core ONE Ford strategy meaning they will return to the traditional Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced 2009 as the highest for auto recalls since 2005. Although the number of campaigns was the lowest in five years, the number of automobiles recalled in each campaign was high. 2008 brought about 10.5 million vehicles recalled in 684 campaigns while there were 16.4 million vehicles recalled in 2009 in 492 campaigns. Only Honda reported a decline in recalled vehicles in 2009.

Below is a list of how the recalls were distributed amongst auto makers in 2009:

  • The leader with nine campaigns adding up to 4.26 million vehicles recalled was the automaker Toyota and their unintended acceleration problems. This is the first time a Japanese automaker has led the industry total.
  • Ford recalled 4.5 million vehicles in eight campaigns. The largest being a defective cruise control switch which was linked to vehicle fires.
  • General Motors had 2.2 million vehicles recalled in 16 campaigns. The possibility of engine fires in passenger sedans accounted for 1.5 million vehicles recalled.
  • Chrysler had 15 campaigns, recalling almost 600,000 vehicles. Chrysler’s popular minivans the Town & Country and the Dodge Grand Caravan accounted for over 350,000 of these recalls for defective crash sensors.
  • Honda had four campaigns recalling 454,000 vehicles. Almost all these vehicles were recalled due to an airbag defect.
  • Nissan Motor Co. had six campaigns, recalling 706,000 vehicles in 2009. Almost 550,000 of these recalls were due to a brake pedal pin becoming partially disengaged causing a loss of normal braking power.
  • Hyundai Motor Co. and its Kia unit recalled 1.3 million vehicles in eight campaigns. Over 530,000 recalls were due to a malfunctioning stop lamp switch that could prevent the brake lights from illuminating or cause them to stay lit after the brakes were released.
  • Volkswagen had eights campaigns and 100,000 vehicles recalled. Almost 17,000 sport-utility vehicles were recalled to fix a software program that could lead to passenger air bag failure.

Toyota’s unintended acceleration problem has been flooding the media lately causing fear in anyone who drives on the roads. You hear stories of how someone’s car started speeding uncontrollably and the deaths and injuries that resulted. Drivers of these vehicles said they pressed the brakes, but the vehicle just didn’t respond.

You may be surprised to learn that this is a problem that has been around for quite a while, and is not limited to only Toyota vehicles. has received sudden acceleration complaints over the years from a wide range of makes, including Kia, Jaguar, BMW and Ford. Ford coming in second after Toyota. In fact, during the 80’s, Audi went through the same legal and media problems that Toyota experiences now for unintended acceleration.

In 2005 there was an estimated 20,000 consumers who complained to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of sudden unintended acceleration. Some complaints as far back as the late 1980’s when vehicle first started to be controlled with electronic controls. The problem is difficult to recreate without tampering with the vehicles electronics, so in most cases there is no indication that the vehicle has malfunctioned.

According to engineers familiar with electronic technology any electronic interference could cause the accelerator to surge out of control. In these type of systems there are fail-safes that will reset the computer and will store an error code which can be read by a technician when brought in for repairs. So far, any vehicle that has experienced unintended acceleration has not brought up an error code indicating anything went wrong.