Hyundai is the new Honda, Nissan's tranny problem, and Aston Martin's new road-going V12 Zagato

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?


Hyundai is the new Honda, Nissan's tranny problem, and Aston Martin's new road-going V12 Zagato1st Gear: Hyundai Is The New Honda
Detroit's automakers are finding it hard to dislodge the Asians from the top ranks of the compact sedan segment, according to a new comparison test by Kelley Blue Book. Except now, instead of the Japanese, it's the Koreans they're sucking wind behind. In a test of comparably equipped Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze sedans, the Civic and Elantra tied for first place, the Focus was third and Cruze fourth. "If this were a beauty contest, or a price war, the 2011 Hyundai Elantra would win it hands down," KBB said Wednesday. I think we called this.


Hyundai is the new Honda, Nissan's tranny problem, and Aston Martin's new road-going V12 Zagato

2nd Gear: Nissan's Got A Serious Problem With Trannys
Owners of some of Nissan's most popular S.U.V.'s and pickup trucks are experiencing failures of their automatic transmissions because radiator coolant is leaking into the systems. While the automaker has offered an extended warranty for the radiators, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other safety organizations have received numerous complaints from owners alleging they have spent thousands of dollars for transmission repairs because the added radiator warranty coverage only applied to vehicles with fewer than 80,000 miles. The Web site of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has at least 200 complaints about transmissions on those vehicles, while the Center for Auto Safety (CAS), a consumer advocacy group, has almost four dozen.


Hyundai is the new Honda, Nissan's tranny problem, and Aston Martin's new road-going V12 Zagato

3rd Gear: What About Bob?
Bloomberg reports this morning that United Auto Workers President Bob King said he would prefer to avoid arbitration on a union complaint that Ford salaried employees didn't sacrifice as much as hourly workers to help the company survive. A hearing before an arbitrator is set for Sept. 15, a day after Ford's contract covering 41,000 U.S. workers expires. More than 35,000 Ford union members, who gave up pay increases and bonuses, signed the grievance last year after the company reinstated raises, tuition aid and 401(k) matches for white- collar employees. "You always try to work out a settlement if you can without going to arbitration," King said in an interview yesterday at the union's headquarters in Detroit. "If we can't work something out, then arbitration is a last option."


Hyundai is the new Honda, Nissan's tranny problem, and Aston Martin's new road-going V12 Zagato

4th Gear: A Nissan Leaf Limo
The obviously-named Electric Car Company yesterday announced that its custom manufacturing subsidiary, Imperial Coach Builders, Inc., will convert a Nissan Leaf into a 100% electric limousine. Engineers will stretch the Leaf approximately 48 inches in order to double the seating capacity of the rear passenger compartment. I'm just hoping they'll find a way to upgrade the powertrain and increase the range.


Hyundai is the new Honda, Nissan's tranny problem, and Aston Martin's new road-going V12 Zagato

5th Gear: Buckeyes Beg Michigan For Jobs
Ohio Gov. John Kasich journeyed north Tuesday to Michigan, where he met with officials of the Detroit Three automakers to discuss ways the Buckeye state could help encourage further investment in auto plants in Ohio. "My message to them was, 'Let's meet, let's talk, let's be candid. Let's figure out how the State of Ohio can partner,' " he told reporters afterward. "How we can put agreements together, how we can do work force training, how we can influence auto manufacturing in Ohio." The automaker CEOs listened intently, and then remembered "Oh, yeah, you're friggin' Ohio."


Hyundai is the new Honda, Nissan's tranny problem, and Aston Martin's new road-going V12 Zagato

6th Gear: Oh Dear God, There's More Car Dealers!
The number of new car dealers in the U.S. rose slightly in the first half of 2011, as the auto industry expanded in metropolitan areas, according to a report released Wednesday by Detroit-based Urban Science.


Reverse:

⏎ Official: Aston Martin V12 Zagato for the Road [GTSpirit]

⏎ High-MPG SUVs: The Wrong Answer [Huffington Post]

⏎ Changing Fuels, Taylors Chase Their Own Mileage Mark. [New York Times]

⏎ MOG coming to BMW ConnectedDrive. [Autoblog]

⏎ Gas Is Cheaper, but We're Still Driving Less. [New York Times]

⏎ Why the EcoBoost 4-banger is going to be a hit — but it won't be for everyone. [Automotive News]

⏎ Mike Levine, the founder of PickupTrucks.com and the hardest working man in automotive journalism, is leaving the confines of the web world for a cushy job running pickup truck PR for Ford. We'll miss him. He's now dead to us... unless we get that long-term Raptor we've been asking for.


Today in Automotive History:

The German race car driver Michael Schumacher makes his Formula One (Europe's top racing circuit) debut in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps on this day in 1991. [History]

Hyundai is the new Honda, Nissan's tranny problem, and Aston Martin's new road-going V12 Zagato
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Hyundai is the new Honda, Nissan's tranny problem, and Aston Martin's new road-going V12 Zagato
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