Ford Motor Co. beginning today is accepting bids on its Land Rover and Jaguar Cars divisions, a source familiar with the situation tells Ward’s.

Speculation has been mounting as to the future of the two Premier Automotive Group marques since Ford revealed last month it is reviewing options for the brands as its North American turnaround strategy unfolds.

Ford last year posted a full-year net loss of $12.6 billion on revenue of $160.1 billion.

“Two weeks ago, we confirmed that we’ve had contact from interested parties,” a spokesman says of the potential Land Rover and Jaguar sale.

He wouldn’t confirm media reports suggesting Ford would receive up to six bids for the brands.

“We’ve had contact with interested parties in terms of Jaguar and Land Rover and we’re evaluating that level of interest,” the spokesman says. “Any discussions we’ve had are preliminary only. We’re working with financial advisors to ascertain the best outcome for the future of Jaguar and Land Rover.”

Potential suitors reportedly include India’s Tata Motors Ltd. and Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., but spokesmen for both companies refused to confirm any interest, according to Reuters.

Other supposed bidders include investment groups One Equity Partners, Ripplewood Holdings and Cerberus Capital Management LP, the private-investment group that is in the process of purchasing Chrysler Group from DaimlerChrysler AG.

No timeline has been established for completing the sale of the brands, the Ford spokesman says, pointing to the sale earlier this year of Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd., another PAG brand.

“There is no timeline. It took six months for Aston Martin,” he says. “If people want to speculate that it’s the start of the process rather than end of it, they’d be on track.”

Meanwhile, reports that Ford’s Volvo Cars Swedish subsidiary also is on the block has garnered mixed reactions from industry observers.

Although Ford doesn’t break out individual numbers for each PAG brand, Volvo reportedly is the top money earner of the three luxury marques, with Land Rover at or slightly above break-even and Jaguar continuing to lose money. PAG posted a full-year loss of $327 million in 2006, substantially worse than the 2005 loss of $89 million.

Many Ford and Volvo vehicles share platforms, and Ford relies on the Swedish auto maker for its engineering and safety expertise. As such, selling Volvo could be a risky proposition for Ford, analysts say.

“It’s a head-scratcher for us,” Mark Fulthorpe, an analyst at automotive consultancy CSM Worldwide in the U.K., tells Ward’s.

“Most of Volvo’s products clearly into the next decade are tied up with platforms belonging to Ford,” he says. “Some unraveling would need to take place.”

However, because of Volvo’s profitability, it may be the most attractive of the three PAG brands to potential buyers, Colin Couchman, an analyst at researcher Global Insight Inc., tells Ward’s.

“Volvo is an entity, Jaguar is a black hole not making money,” he says. “What you can get for companies not making money is less than ones with revenue and profit.

“Of the brands to possibly sell, Volvo is the most attractive,” Couchman says. “It’s a nice parcel. It’s fairly self-contained and certainly has strengths in platforms. It was a shrewd move when (Ford) bought Volvo in the first place.”

Media reports have pegged Volvo’s market value at some $7 billion, while Jaguar and Land Rover, combined, could potentially fetch $8 billion.

Jaguar’s value may get a boost from its top ranking in the recent J.D. Power and Associates 2007 Customer Service Index Study, which measures the customer satisfaction of vehicle owners who visit dealer service departments for repair or maintenance in the first three years of ownership.

Out of a 1,000-point scale, Jaguar scored 925 points, 13 above the top CSI performer in 2006. Following Jaguar in the U.S. rankings are Buick (918 points) and Cadillac and Lexus (both at 913).

Ford bought Volvo for $6.45 billion in 1999. It bought Jaguar in 1989 for $2.5 billion and Land Rover in 2000 for $2.7 billion.

There’s some speculation Ford could be interested in selling off its PAG brands in order to fund a United Auto Workers union-managed trust to pay for retiree health-care benefits. Such a trust is expected to be discussed during contract talks getting under way this week. Ford currently has about $26 billion in liabilities related to retiree health-care obligations.

bpope@wardsauto.com