Ford Motor Co., long the darling of labor relationships, now is the only Big Three automaker that doesn't have a new national contract with the United Auto Workers after the union tentatively settled last week with General Motors Corp.

But that soon could change. Published reports say Ford now is trying to spin off to investors its Visteon Automotive Systems parts unit. Ford parting with Visteon is known to be the major issue in contract talks, so a quick resolution, like the one being mentioned, would be somewhat surprising.

After reportedly trying to sell Visteon to Lear Corp. — and even Delphi Automotive Systems — Ford wants a spin off because it is tax free. Ford hopes the union would approve independence for Visteon if the partsmaker agrees to a contract similar to the pact the UAW negotiated last week with Delphi. It is believed Delphi and GM have agreed to separate four-year contracts that include 3% annual wage increases. Also, independence rather than acquisition would lower dramatically possible job losses and provide workers the opportunity to return to Ford under a provision known as “flow-back rights.”