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: Today Only Feels Like The Worst Travel Day Of The Year
Millions of Americans are taking to the roads, rails and airplanes today to begin travel plans for the Thanksgiving holiday. But some of the nation's largest cities are already getting pounded with severe weather that could potentially cause major delays on highways and at airports as two major storms hit the Northeast and Northwest. Forecasters say some of the worst mid-week weather in the country will be on the coasts and could back up some of America's busiest airports such as those in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Seattle. Also, 29 miles of the Pennsylvania turnpike covered with a tar-like substance didn't help things yesterday. Well, at least that hellish mix is today because, as we were reminded by auto-writing veteran Micki Maynard earlier this morning, today's not the highest-traveled day of the year — that would be Sunday.
2nd Gear: If Subaru Were German, The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack Would Be Their Outback
This is the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack — an higher Passat wagon sold in Europe — set to make its official debut next week at the Tokyo Motor Show. On the outside, you'll see flared fenders, some front bumper and matte faux-chrome embellishments. Underneath, the Passat Alltrack gets the Volkswagen 4MOTION all-wheel drive system, some enhanced underbody protection and a higher ride height than the standard Passat. How high? Ground clearance has been increased from 5.3 inches to about 6.5 inches, an approach angle up from 13.5 to 16 degrees, and a departure angle up from 11.9 to 13.6 degrees. Also, you know, hill descent control and an "off-road mode" with multiple settings for the dual-clutch tranny. Beneath the hood, VW's giving Europeans two different 2.0-liter TDI engines. Don't hold your breath if you're looking to buy this Wagon-UV in the U.S. — it ain't gonna happen, at least any time soon.
3rd Gear: The 2012 Mercedes-Benz SL Gets A New Monocoque
At a preview event held around last week's L.A. Auto Show, Mercedes showed journalists a completed example of the new sixth-generation Mercedes SL roadster's all-new "body-in-white" bones. The new skeleton's made from a mix of chill cast-, vacuum die cast-, stamped-, extruded-, and probably something else dashed aluminum. That'll make the 2012 SL the very first Mercedes in large-scale series production to get an almost all-aluminum monocoque. That means that — according to Mercedes-Benz — it'll be 309 lb. lighter than the outgoing steel car, and 20% more torsionally rigid. That'll help the new SL's handling precision, comfort, performance and fuel-efficiency.
4th Gear: Auto Dealers Want In On Black Friday Sales
Shoppers spent around $45 billion last year on retail purchases during the post-Thanksgiving Day Black Friday sugar-and-consumerism-fueled weekend sales, according to a study by the National Retail Federation. Now, according to Automotive News, auto dealers are looking to get some of that action. "Black Friday has become the shopping-Mecca day," said Marc Cannon, spokesman for AutoNation Inc., the nation's largest dealership group. "Obviously auto retailers are now looking at it and saying, ‘How can I get a piece of that retail activity?'" How about just not doing it? That would be awesome, thanks.
5th Gear: RIP, Vinny: In Praise Of An All-Wheel-Drive Dog
Some of you might remember Vinny, my mom's 11-year-old greyhound, from a video we ran — eerily —exactly one year ago today. In that post we asked: What-wheel-drive is this dog? That video ended up being watched tens of thousands of times on YouTube — making that ridiculously comical dog a minor viral sensation. Sadly, Vinny started having seizures on Saturday and after steadily losing control of bodily functions over the past few days, I loaded him into the back of my mom's Cadillac SRX to take him to the vet for the last time at around 5:00 AM this morning. I'm going to miss that dog, but this Thanksgiving I'm thankful for the time I had with him. If you want to make a donation in his honor — or, if you think that's cheesy or overly-sentimental, and just want to help a really great organization — go here.
6th Gear: Thanksgiving Weekend Programming
Just a quick programming note — The Morning Shift will be taking the rest of the week off for the Thanksgiving holiday. We'll also be running at half-speed tomorrow and Friday. So if you're around and bored with family, stop on by — somebody will be here. If not, have a great Thanksgiving Day tomorrow and enjoy the Black Friday sales. Tom Joslin, of course, will be here all weekend.
⏎ Ford and GM Renew a Bitter Rivalry. [Wall Street Journal]
⏎ Big Trucks Returned Big Profits for Detroit. [New York Times]
⏎ A Push To Make Gasoline Engines More Efficient. [NPR]
⏎ A last chance for the Lexus GS. [Automotive News]
⏎ Nissan's quirky Cube is down but not out. [AutoWeek]
⏎ GM continues to oppose Saab's China deal, paper says. [Automotive News]
⏎ Electrified Cruze will be a plug-in hybrid rather than a range-extender like Volt. [GoAuto]
Today in Automotive History:
On this day in 1966, Elvis Presley's 22nd film, a rock 'n' roll musical called "Spinout" in which Elvis played a singing race car driver, opens in theaters across the U.S. The movie was the year's 57th highest-grossing film. "Spinout" was released on DVD in August 2004. [History]
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