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: Tata offers "upgrades" for the Nano
Tata's recalling 115,000 of the world's cheapest car, but don't call it a "recall." In an act of brazen corporate-speak Tata is calling the replacement of the Nano's starter motor an "upgrade" meant to improve performance and not, you know, prevent… fiery death. They learn so quickly.
2nd Gear: Honda scrapping 1,000+ Flood-damaged cars
Major flooding in Thailand caused major supply problems for Japanese automakers, particularly to Honda and Toyota. The former only just returned to regular production even though the floods occurred in March. Because they can't sell the cars to customers the more than 1,000 cars at Honda's Ayutthaya factory will be destroyed, along with flood damaged parts. More amazing photos over at the MSNBC PhotoBlog.
3rd Gear: Feds looking into rusty Fords and Chevys
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating about 80,000 old Ford and GM vans and minivans for rust issues, according to The Detroit News. These vehicles includes the 2003 Chevrolet Express and 2004 Freestar/Monterey minivans. Express owners have to worry about a leaky fuel filter pipe and the Ford owners have to worry about losing the rear wheels. Pretty obvious how those can lead to fiery death.
4th Gear: Bus drivers need sleep
It's been "several decades" since the Department of Transportation updated rules regarding how many hours that bus drivers need to sleep in between shifts. So far this year 28 people have died in bus-related crashes according to Bloomberg. The DOT has already adjusted sleep rules for pilots and truckers. Having taken a few buses in my day it's clear none of the drivers slept much. Or showered.
5th Gear: Buick to Reveal 2013 Encore at Detroit Auto Show
Buick's posted a new teaser shot of its upcoming Encore, a small, five-passenger CUV expected to be raised from the small-chassis European Opel Corsa. (Opel will likely get its own version.) Expect this premium-fitted nemesis of the Hyundai Tucson to wear design elements that'll carry over to its much bigger sibling, the Enclave, when that SUV gets a makeover next year. No, there won't be a murdered out, twin-turbo GNX version. So stop asking already.
6th Gear: Fisker Karma Gets Swank Scottish Leather, Nod from Top Gear
Aye. The Fisker Karma may be the car Colin Powell parks like an asshat, but it's also Top Gear's luxury car of 2011. And did we mention that the interior is all Scottish leather from the west-central Lowlands? No, we didn't. We left that to Scotland's Bridge of Weir Leather, which issued a press release congratulating the Karma for its Top Gear award, while letting the world know that the $100,000 hybrid is swathed in something called Low Carbon Leather, which means the hides don't have to travel far from where the cows once mooed. It just proves that saving the environment doesn't mean giving up on that peaty, dried skin smell.
⏎ Is Lotus's parent company ready to abandon it? [Automotive News]
⏎ A Maryland judge says Car Max isn't disclosing which of its cars were once rentals. [The New York Times]
⏎ The U.S. has plenty of natural gas, but car buyers don't want it in their tanks. [Wheels24]
⏎ Korea's first all-electric car is a Kia shaped like a happy shoebox. [Wheels24]
⏎ Audi to spend mega billions on fight with BMW, Mercedes [Fourtitude]
Today in Automotive History:
On December 28, 1938, the silent-film star Florence Lawrence commits suicide in Beverly Hills. She was 52 years old. Though she was best known for her roles in nearly 250 films, Lawrence was also an inventor: She designed the first "auto signaling arm," a mechanical turn signal, along with the first mechanical brake signal. She did not patent these inventions, however, and as a result she received no credit for—or profit from—either one.