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: Will Power's Double-Barreled Bird Flip
IndyCar Series driver Will Power was just a wee bit ticked off Sunday when race officials restarted late in the New Hampshire Motor Speedway race — with the track still wet. The result? A spin by Danica Patrick that took out several other drivers, including Power. Livid, Power offered the above gesture to race officials in the scoring tower — and was admonished for it by IndyCar. But what about ABC? As you'd expect, they issued an apology to viewers saying they "inadvertently" showed the double-bird-flip. Inadvertent? Inadvertent, my ass. In a review of the tape, it appears as though ABC didn't air the salute until after it had already happened. Whatever. Although I'm a fan of good, entertaining TV, I'm also a fan of not lying to your viewers.
2nd Gear: GMC Wins "Heavy Duty Hurt Locker" Comparison Test
The GMC Sierra 3500HD won PickupTrucks.com's "Heavy Duty Hurt Locker" comparison test, a grueling showdown among industry heavyweights that included towing 19,000-pound fifth-wheel trailers up and over some of the most demanding grades in the United States. "We procured similarly equipped trucks from Ford, Ram and GMC and put them through the paces towing up and down some of the toughest grades in the country covering a total of 2,200 miles," said Mike Levine, editor of PickupTrucks.com. "When we analyzed the data, the GMC Sierra 3500HD simply outperformed the trucks from Ford and Ram." The results of the comparison conducted July 11-18th showed the Sierra's best-in-class towing for both conventional and fifth-wheel trailers.
3rd Gear: Maserati Recalls 763 Gran Turismo and Quattroporte Sports Cars
Fiat's Maserati unit recalled 763 GranTurismo and Quattroporte sports cars in the U.S. to replace tie rods, part of the vehicles' steering mechanism. The voluntary recall affects some 2009 model-year vehicles, the Italian automaker said in a letter posted today on the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website.
4th Gear: Saab Customers Abandon Automaker as Swedish Hometown Frets
Bloomberg reports this morning on whether or not Saab, the 64-year-old Swedish carmaker sold by General Motors Co. last year to Spyker Cars NV, will win its fight to survive after halting production in March amid a payment dispute with suppliers. Following a series of starts and stops, the main Swedish factory has been quiet since early June, and the company has delayed paying wages twice as it scrambled to raise money. The market volatility caused by the European sovereign debt crisis complicates Saab's efforts to raise funds as banks become increasingly reluctant to loan money. With the factory shut down, the automaker's dealerships are going bust and employees are wondering about their future. "The chances have definitely narrowed," Martin Crum, an analyst at Amsterdams Effectenkantoor BV, said of Saab's possible survival. "The longer it takes, the harder it gets."
5th Gear: Lincoln Dealers Are Skeptical Ford wants Lincoln dealers to invest in dealership improvements and customer services, such as car washes, before the automaker launches vehicles needed to put the struggling brand back in the luxury game. But, despite a big marketing push featuring Mad Men's John Slattery, and Lincoln sales up a scant 1% through July, amid an overall market that was up 11%, and having lost the higher-volume Mercury sales, dealers are saying, "Show me the product." Automotive News was among those invited to see some of the product. Here are highlights of the briefing. They report that Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of global product development, said Lincoln is "heading in the right direction, but needs to take another step." That means designs and features that set Lincolns apart from even a top-of-the-line, flagship Ford Taurus. "No more badge engineering," Kuzak vows. We'll see about that. No journalists have yet reported on what they actually saw there — which doesn't bode well for Lincoln. Because if it had been good, we'd have heard about it.
6th Gear: Honda Building Another Mexican Plant
The Wall Street Journal reports Honda as saying Friday it will build a second assembly plant in Mexico to make subcompact cars, following an industry trend to develop a low-cost export base in the region. The company didn't name the vehicle that would be built at the new $800 million plant, but the only subcompact the company sells in the U.S. and Canada is the Fit, which is now built in Japan. Honda executives had said they were considering shifting production out of Japan because the strength of the yen makes it difficult to make money on exports. The assembly plant, which will employ 3,200 workers and produce up to 200,000 vehicles a year, will be the company's eighth in North America, a market that contributes heavily to Honda's sales and profit.
⏎ Aptera to refund deposits. [Green Car Reports]
⏎ New BMW M3 gets twin-turbo six. [Autocar]
⏎ KTM's Twizy rival. [Auto Express]
⏎ No 1200 hp Bugatti Grand Sport. [Telegraaf]
⏎ Opel now threatening layoffs. [Auto Motor und Sport]
⏎ Americans as hungry as ever for beefy muscle cars. [Detroit News]
⏎ Consumer confidence is pretty fragile. [Automotive News]
⏎ On the Road, and Out of the Red. [New York Times]
⏎ Chrysler seeks tax aid to upgrade Toledo plant. [Detroit News]
⏎ Focus sharpens on children left in hot cars. [USA Today]
⏎ First pictures of 2011 Kia Picanto three-door. [Car]
⏎ Car Talk Finds the Economic Cost of Distracted Driving. [Kicking Tires]
Today in Automotive History:
On this day in 1899, in Detroit, Michigan, Henry Ford resigns his position as chief engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company's main plant in order to concentrate on automobile production. [History]
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