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: Although today's Dodge Viper may be the V10 brute Jalopnik readers know and love as a widow-maker, the next-generation 2013 Dodge Viper is being designed to appeal to a wider range of supercar buyers. Ralph Gilles, head of design at Chrysler Group and president of the Dodge brand, says Dodge is talking to the owners of Porsche and other high-end brands "to pick their brains and see what they like and don't like about the Viper or even their own sports car." Gilles added during an interview with Automotive News at this week's New York Auto Show: "It is more of a conversation to better understand this community because, honestly, it is outside our normal brand. We don't deal with that type of customer on any other level except for the Viper. So we want to understand them better." Here's a hint — let them turn ESC off all the way. Oh, wait, no, that would be the current Viper buyer.
2nd Gear: According to government filings reported by Bloomberg, General Motors paid Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson $2.53 million for 2010. Stephen Girsky, GM's vice chairman of corporate strategy, received compensation of $3.71 million in 2010, including $416,667 in salary. Ed Whitacre, who served as CEO of GM for eight months of last year, was paid $1.3 million in salary, and $3.5 million in stock awards. Compare and contrast these "government" jobs with the pay accorded to Alan Mulally, who received a $26.5 million package for 2010 as CEO of Ford that included salary, bonus, stock, option awards and other pay.
3rd Gear: Don't expect a Chevy Malibu wagon. But General Motors' North American president Mark Reuss tells Automotive News that it's an intriguing idea, for two reasons: One is the rising price of gas. The other is that it would be relatively easy for GM to make a Malibu wagon because the car is built on its global Epsilon platform, which makes it simpler to build variants of the same vehicle. But it won't happen for one reason — American car buyers hate wagons. Which is why, on many days, we hate them.
4th Gear: Team Lotus could be set to tie up with Caterham Cars, the famed British specialist sports car maker. Sky News City's business editor Mark Kleinman said the F1 team's boss Tony Fernandes is likely to confirm next week that he has bought the Lotus-linked manufacturer. The Team Lotus/Caterham tie-up could be a real easy way for Fernandes to emerge independently from the bitter F1 naming dispute with Group Lotus.
5th Gear: The Detroit Free Press reports that forty of the 130 Fiat dealers that will eventually sell the new Fiat 500 are now able to sell cars, Laura Soave, head of Fiat in North America, said Thursday. Fiat, which started selling the 500 microcar in March, is behind schedule on opening its dealerships but wanted to make sure each franchise owner had an appropriate showroom before opening, Soave said. We'd have heard all about this at the press conference yesterday if we hadn't been busy defending Mike Spinelli from being brained with a chair swung by a crazed journasour in the New York Auto Show press room.
6th Gear: Saab's financial woes have gone from "small Fukushima" to "a small Three Mile Island" as the Swedish National Debt Office has approved Saab's refinancing proposal involving the sale and lease-back of land and buildings to investor Vladimir Antonov. The deal now requires European Investment Bank approval to proceed. Oh, and yes, that's our own Justin Hyde in the Getty Images shot right there on the right. And no, we don't know why Victor's shirt is undone.
⏎ Rolls-Royce predicts big sales increase in the second quarter thanks to Casper the friendly-to-sales Ghost. [Automotive News Europe]
⏎ Kia to build Optima mid-size sedan in Georgia. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
⏎ Toyota sees at least 6 months before normal production. [Automotive News]
⏎ Mercedes mbrace telematics system is the OnStar you never knew existed. [Motor Trend]
⏎ Will surging gas prices save the Honda Insight? [Greren Car Reports]
⏎ Danny Howes will kiss any CEO's ass... any time, any place. Especially without any real knowledge as to why. [Detroit News]
⏎ The original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie car. [eBay]
⏎ Tonight's the premiere of "Revenge of the Electric Car" at the Tribeca Film Festival. I'm very excited. Buy your tickets today!
Today in Automotive History:
Frederick Henry Royce, who with Charles Stewart Rolls founded the luxury British automaker Rolls-Royce, dies on this day in 1933 at the age of 70 in England. [History]