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 parcel it out to you one story at a time. Isn't your time more important?
1st Gear: Tesla Motors Inc., the maker of electric Roadster sports cars, plans to sell 5.3 million shares in a secondary offering to help fund development of a rechargeable sport-utility vehicle. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk will buy an additional 1.5 million shares in a private placement and Blackstar Investco LLC, the investment arm of Daimler AG, will buy as many as 644,475 shares at the offering price, Palo Alto, California-based Tesla said today in a regulatory filing. Because, you know, they totally needed to be adding another vehicle to the mix — especially an SUV. Why don't they just add a pickup truck while they're at it?
2nd Gear: Bloomberg reports that Fiat may boost its stake in Chrysler Group LLC to more than 51% before an initial public offering of the U.S. automaker, as it seeks to buy the shares for less money. "It's possible" that Fiat will buy more Chrysler stock, Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of both companies, told reporters today in Turin, where the Italian carmaker is based. "The more we wait, the more it costs" to buy shares from the U.S. Treasury, he said. Fiat boosted its holding in Chrysler to 46% yesterday after the U.S. carmaker repaid $7.6 billion in U.S. and Canadian government loans. The CEO, wearing a "paid" pin on his trademark navy blue sweater, said Fiat will consolidate Chrysler results from June 1. Fiat expects to get an additional 5% stake in the fourth quarter, in return for developing a fuel-efficient car for Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler.
3rd Gear: On Thursday, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released crash-test results for 13 small cars. Six earned top scores, bringing the total number of small cars named top safety picks by the institute to 22. The I.I.H.S., which is funded by the insurance industry, also released a list of the 10 small cars that claim top crash-test scores as well as the highest fuel economy ratings in their class. The six top safety picks consist of 2011 and 2012 models. They are the 2012 Ford Focus and the Honda Civic four-door, as well as the 2011 Hyundai Elantra, the Lexus CT 200h, the Nissan Juke and Toyota Prius.
4th Gear: The Detroit Bureau claims to have learned that GM has approved the use of a slightly-larger-than-three-liters engine in the C7 Corvette. The engine will be an overhead-cam, rather than traditional overhead-valve design, and will use a dry sump oil system. Their source, who they claim is a very senior GM executive, told them that the new engine will be turbocharged and is expected to deliver in excess of 400 horsepower — or, in other words, output in the range of 125 horsepower per liter. The engine is — according to Paul Eisenstein at The Detroit Bureau — "extremely high-revving, perhaps climbing to a near-Formula One-class 10,000 RPMs, suggested one source involved in the project." We have no independent confirmation of any of this — especially considering F1 territory is closer to 18,000 RPM. Although we know it still won't look like that silver-sliver-of-sexy on the left.
5th Gear: Ferrari may already be Fiat's most profitable unit, but now they aim to boost those big bucks even further. The prancing stallion brand's tossing out a target of a hundred cars a year in sales in India by 2014, Ashish Chordia, the carmaker's dealer in the South Asian nation, told Bloomberg in New Delhi today. Ferrari's cheapest car in India will be priced at 22 million rupees, Chordia said. That's $485,000 in McDonald's bucks. But really, curry-flavored Ferraris? That'll never work. Of course I used to say the same thing about Chilean Jewish women. Turns out that actually is a pretty hot combo.
6th Gear: Like the Jetta before it, Volkswagen has cut the base price of the revamped Passat. As we've said before, it's dropped in price by about $7,000, placing the mid-sized sedan in a more competitive position to challenge the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion. The 2012 Passat will start at $20,765, including shipping, compared with $27,945 for the 2010 model. The question is — is it worth it? We'll find out when we test drive it shortly.