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: The U.S. Treasury Department is reluctant to sell part of its 33% stake in General Motors back to the company at this point because the price is too low, a person familiar with the matter said. Executives at Detroit-based GM have discussed buying some of the Treasury's shares or allowing all holders of common stock to sell back shares, said the person, who asked not to be identified revealing private discussions. The Treasury doesn't want to sell GM while the shares are trading at 13% less than the $33 initial public offering price, the person said. Who can blame them? Apparently, Dan Akerson can't blame himself or General Motors at this point either. Because while Akerson said GM has more to do to improve operations, he also said that GM's stock has not suffered any more than other carmakers. "No one is doing a victory lap," Akerson said. "The stock has performed on the same order of magnitude as our primary competitors. No one said this was going to be a layup." You're right, nobody did. But maybe saying some nice things about your future product might help a bit too.
2nd Gear: Ford CEO Alan "Boeing! Boeing!" Mulally said that while the economy is the automaker's main concern, he expects conditions to improve in the second half of this year. "Our biggest concern of course is that the economy has slowed a little bit from where we thought it would be," Mulally said today in a Bloomberg interview. "Having said that, most of the economists believe that it's going to start picking up in the second half with everything that's been put in place, both monetarily and fiscally. "We believe with the economy coming back we're going to exceed our performance from last year," he said. By the way, did anyone notice that the color of Mulally's sweater vest looks an awful lot like the fur on a certain ridiculous puppet? Coincidence? We think not.
3rd Gear: Although Americans may be eating more beets, we're using less gas, as U.S. gasoline demand at the pump slid 2.9% last week as Americans returned to work after the Memorial Day holiday weekend, according to a MasterCard Inc. SpendingPulse report. Motorists bought an average 9.19 million barrels a day in the week ended June 3rd, down from 9.46 million the previous week, the second-biggest payments network company said. Averaged over four weeks, gasoline use was 1.3% below the same period in 2010. It was the 11th consecutive decline in the average. During the four-day holiday driving period that began on May 27th, drivers pumped 35.3 million barrels, 2.1% below a year earlier. Demand was down 3.5% on May 27, and down 1.2% for the other three days.
4th Gear: Bloomberg has a great story this morning about how, at the Beijing Sports Car Club, a $220,000 Porsche SE 911 counts as an entry-level model. Members are competing with counterparts who race $3.9 million Tramontanas and $4.3 million Bugatti Veyron 16.4s. The number of millionaires in China jumped 31% last year to more than 1.1 million, and with an average age of 39, they are 15 years younger than their U.S. and European peers. Car clubs, nonexistent in the country two years ago, are now providing enthusiasts with a venue to show off their vehicles and carmakers an opportunity to win more converts. Hell, maybe I don't need a new "Forzalopnik" pack for Forza 4, I just need a Jalopnik
5th Gear: Will Saab's sob story end anytime soon? Doesn't look like it. Saab production has been brought to a halt again after "a disruption in the flow of materials" although Saab swears that's not code for "not enough money to pay for the materials." A spokesman for the firm told Automotive News that it is "hard to predict" when production will resume, having briefly commenced again this morning after being stopped yesterday. Saab had said last week that its production was back to normal after receiving a cash injection from Chinese firm Pang Da that allowed it to settle financial disputes with suppliers, but the latest stoppage shows Saab's problems are still on-going. Saab chairman Victor Muller said yesterday's stoppage could have been caused by parts supplies drying up as "many suppliers did not make parts during the shutdown, some for almost two months. If you run out of parts it can impact production."
6th Gear: President Barack Obama will get a first-hand look at two Ford Motor Co. hybrids and learn about a General Motors Co.-backed auto mechanic program when he tours Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria later today to tout the importance of creating jobs. The Detroit News today says Ford spokeswoman Christin Baker tells them the company was pleased the president would be getting a look at a newer version of his former vehicle.
⏎ Zee 8-Zylinder Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster configurator eez live. [Mercedes-Benz.de]
⏎ GM Korea to spend 5.4 trillion won on expansion. [GoAuto]
⏎ Nissan's top execs paid twice as much as Toyota, Honda, sell half as many cars. [Automotive News]
⏎ Car-loving fashion blogger picks five summer rides, claims "no beige allowed." [33 avenue Miquelon]
⏎ Motor Trend's Angus Mackenzie wonders whether Ford will ever show Lincoln any love — but headlines his piece as a sure thing. [MotorTrend]
⏎ Nissan builds one-millionth Frontier pickup. [PickupTrucks.com]
⏎ Reimagining auto retail for electric cars. [New York Times]
⏎ Jaguar set to lift XFR looks and price. [GoAuto]
⏎ Lotus to build its own engines. [AutoCar]
Today in Automotive History:
On this day in 1948, a hand-built aluminum prototype labeled "No. 1" becomes the first vehicle to bear the name of one of the world's leading luxury car manufacturers: Porsche. [History]