This is the Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important — all in one place at 9:00 AM. Or, you could spend all day waiting for other sites to parse it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: So, if you listen to the guys who measure this stuff — they think gas prices have sort of peaked this year. Seriously. Despite gas prices jumping more than 11 cents over the past two weeks, the pace of higher pump prices seems to have slowed, according to the most recent Lundberg Survey published Sunday. The survey claims the average price of a gallon of self-serve regular is $3.88 in the United States, not including Alaska and Hawaii. That's just 23 cents off the all-time high of $4.11 set in July 2008, but weakening demand for gasoline and a slower rate of rise in crude oil prices may keep it from hitting that mark.
2nd Gear: Ford may report its largest first-quarter profit since 1998 tomorrow despite those surging-yet-peaking U.S. gasoline prices. Profit excluding some items may have climbed to 50 cents a share, according to an average of 14 analysts' estimates and a trained chimpanzee firing darts at a wall, from 46 cents a year earlier. Net income may have risen to $2.1 billion, the average of three analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg, and the most since a $17.6 billion profit in the first quarter of 1998.
3rd Gear: Chris Paine's Revenge of the Electric Car premiered on Friday at the Tribeca Film Festival. Yes, I saw it. But, since it might seem a little bit self-serving for me to review the movie as I was in it (and playing, basically, along with former Valleywag editor Owen Thomas, the role of industry Waldorf and Statler), I'll let others do it for me. Here's a few good reviews penned by the Wall Street Journal, The Detroit News, Reuters/Hollywood Reporter, Cinema Blend, and The Wrap. They all say you should see it whether you couldn't care less about cars or if you're one of those "obsessed-with-the-auto-industry" types just aching for clips of GM's "Maximum" Bob Lutz and Elon Musk saying ridiculously laughable things. There's also this review by John Voelcker at Green Car Reports that I don't entirely agree with, as I think it's rather simplistic for a documentary to require a "villain," but whatevs, John says I don't link to him enough, so here ya go. See it this week at the Tribeca Film Festival and take a shot every time you see me on screen.
4th Gear: Just weeks after Hyundai killed its innovative job loss buyback marketing program, the Korean automaker unveiled a new program determined to attack nagging consumer perception its vehicles depreciate faster than the competition's. Hyundai agrees to pay fixed sums for Hyundai trade-ins in the third or fourth years of ownership when the owner buys a new Hyundai. Basically, the program guarantees the trade-in value of new vehicles bought from its dealers starting May 1st with values based on residuals set by Automotive Lease Guide. The buyback guarantee requires scheduled maintenance be performed at Hyundai dealerships, and that could help with an issue nagging the brand: absorption, the percentage of a dealership's overhead covered by gross profit from service and parts. So basically, everyone's a winner. Except the competition.
5th Gear: As we reported back in November, Honda President Takanobu Ito says the automaker's developing a sports car designed to be the spiritual successor to the discontinued Acura NSX. But as expected these days, the new car won't feature the brute V10 that had initially been envisioned for the next NSX. That vision? Scrapped in 2008 during the carpocalypse. Speaking to reporters at the Shanghai auto show, Ito said the car would be exhilarating to drive but also environmentally friendly: "That's the kind of sports car we want to make." Ito did not give details of the sports car or a timeline for its launch. The vehicle is expected to use an electric drivetrain to give the gasoline engine a boost, a Honda spokesman said. The car will be positioned as a high-performance counterpart to the two-seat Honda CR-Z hybrid. Wonderful. So, umm, it'll be a hybrid or something similar? Great. Hey Honda, you're doing it wrong.
6th Gear: Ford design boss J Mays has confirmed that the 2013 Taurus facelift featuring the company's new corporate nose will be integrated across a variety of upcoming models, including this year's Falcon makeover. The new Ford look will also be integrated into the next-generation Mondeo mid-size sedan and some of those shapes, like the "Superman shield" on the SHO, and some of the classic inverted trapezoid on a variety of cars around the world, from Focus and Mondeo to many of Ford's crossovers. Yes, but will the Mustang get it?
⏎ On 11th Avenue, an auto boomtown. [New York Times]
⏎ To see just how out of touch the New York Post is, check out who they go to for their New York auto show coverage. [New York Post]
⏎ $4 gasoline changes the industry. Until it drops again. [Automotive News]
⏎ For Toyota... when it was 2011, it was a very bleak year. [Wall Street Journal]
⏎ GM's pushing Chevy as a global brand. So how's the song going to go now? Mom, cricket, curry puffs, and Chevrolet? [Financial Times (sub. req.)]
⏎ An interview with Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk. Did I mention I met his new wife, Talulah Riley, this weekend. She's hot and a sweetheart. What the hell is she doing with him? [Newsweek]
⏎ New exhibit on Andy Warhol's love of cars opens this weekend in New Jersey. Yes, New Jersey continues to be the cultural epicenter of America. [The Daily]
⏎ The growing role of software in our cars. [Wired]
⏎ Will the Scion FR-S turn out to be the badass rear-drive sports car Toyota is hyping it to be? [Edmunds Inside Line]
⏎ Toyota's Chief Designer on the Lexus LF-Gh Concept: "The degree of realism is very high." [Automobile]
⏎ Volkswagen wants to penetrate China even further... with a new entry-level brand. [Automotive News]
Today in Automotive History:
On this day in 2001, 44-year-old Italian race car driver Michele Alboreto is killed on a track in Germany during a test drive. Alboreto collected five Grand Prix wins on the Formula One (F1) circuit, where he competed during the 1980s and early 1990s, and also claimed victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1997. [History]
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