February 2nd, 2011

With our new design comes the return of Morning Shift, a one-stop daily morning roundup of all the auto news that's actually important to you — right here on Jalopnik at 9:00 AM, just when you get into the office.

1st Gear: McLaren begins production of the $231,000 MP4-12C today. The boutique luxury/performance brand's planning to build up to 1,000 -12Cs in 2011, with most being manufactured at the McLaren Production "Centre" being built adjacent to the current shed McLaren Production "Centre" in Woking, UK ... whenever it's finished being built.

2nd Gear: Defying convention in a way only an Italian automaker can, Alfa Romeo plans a rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive coupe as an "affordable" halo car for the brand. We're told it'll be built as the 4C GTA and sell for about 40,000 Euros (around $55K). So basically, it's half an 8C in name and 1/3 an 8C — already the brand's "halo" car — in price. If it's even half as sexy, it might be a bargain.

3rd Gear: U.S. January car sales were up 17% to 819,688 vehicles sold. Mostly thanks to big pickup and new model demand. Also, you know, people not being afraid they'll be losing their jobs next week. That always helps. See Automotive News' automaker-by-automaker sales chart here.

4th Gear: Toyota's offering U.S. managers buyouts for the first time ever. Although the buyouts will be voluntary, we're told the first managers to be offered the buyout will be anyone who worked on floor mats. We're kidding. Actually, it's being offered to any managers working on accelerators, duh!

5th Gear: U.S. House Speaker John Boehner asked the Obama administration to explain why it let Delphi terminate pension plans for 21,000 salaried retirees. We dunno, but somehow we think maybe it's because they went bankrupt. That's just our guess anyway.

6th Gear: Honda and GM are both creating new brands for the Chinese market. What, Buick's not good enough for China anymore?

Reverse:

— Dr. Strangelove or: How enthusiasts need to stop worrying and love the Chevy Volt [Motor Trend]

— NHTSA is investigating ignition coil problems on nearly 500,000 VW Passats from the 2001-2007 model years that could lead to fiery death. [NYT]

— Is the "Cloak of invisibility" a new Harry Potter book? [Autoextremist]

— Toyota may make the Prius cheaper. You're welcome? [Bloomberg]

— Want to hang out with Edmunds at the Chicago Auto Show? Yeah, neither do we. [Edmunds Straightline]

— One Ford Focus to rule them all. [Motor Trend]

Speaking of a fairy tale land of magic and mystery — what magic pixie dust are F-Series engineers sprinkling to regain the top spot on heavy duty maximum towing from GM? [PickupTrucks]