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: Detroit Auto Show Has Best Opening Day In Five Years
The Detroit Auto Show opened with its strongest first day attendance in five years. "We are absolutely thrilled at today's turnout," said Bill Perkins, chairman, 2012 NAIAS, in a press release. "The week just keeps getting better and better, and we're so pleased to share all the excitement with so many people and families who joined us for opening day." Perkins said 92,106 people turned out for day one of the public show. Last year that number was only 86,622. Second day auto show attendance was even better — 102,918 attendees. Does this mean there's a resurgence in love of cars? No, it just means there's even less to do in Metro Detroit than ever before!
2nd Gear: Mercedes Gets In Trouble Over "Che" Guevara Image At CES
Daimler apologized Thursday for using an image of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara during a promotional presentation for Mercedes-Benz during a presentation by Dieter Zetsche, head of Mercedes, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday. It reproduced a famous Alberto Korda photo of Guevara, the Argentine communist who spearheaded the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in Cuba. The photo became a symbol of communist revolutionary movements during the 1960s and '70s. But in place of the star that adorns Guevara's beret in the original, Mercedes affixed its corporate logo. Yeah, that's not just insensitive, it's stupid. But you know what? I actually think it was more insensitive that they used the image of the Statue of Liberty over to the left. The gal was French and Mercedes is German. Need I say more?
3rd Gear: Ford Still In Ranger Danger Over Death Of Compact Pickup Truck
The Detroit Free Press reminded us this weekend of the Ranger danger Ford's finding itself. Twice during the Detroit Auto Show press days, Ford executives were called to the carpet to defend their decision to kill the Ranger in the U.S. and Canada. Part of the reason the issue resurfaced is the same executives' buoyant predictions that a redesigned Ford Ranger for the rest of the world is going to be a great success. And this from an automaker that brags at every turn about how it has democratized more of its same cars across all markets. Read more about how Mark Fields and Jim Farley got into trouble here.
4th Gear: Photoshop The New Dodge Commercial Van, Win A Prize
Last week, Chrysler said it will expand its plant in Saltillo, Mexico, to assemble a Ram-branded version of the Fiat Ducato commercial van for North America. The revised Ducato will arrive in 2013. Anyone want to use Photoshop to take a stab at showing us what that might look like? I'll DM a Forza Motorsport 4 Jalopnik January Car Pack DLC code to the best results in the comments and then drop the winners into tomorrow's Morning Shift.
5th Gear: December North American Car Sales Were Pretty Awesome
So the last month of 2011 was pretty damn good in North America. Car and truck production in December rose 21% from a year earlier to 1,063,690 units, marking a record 26th straight year-over-year increase. The last time December output topped one million was 2006. Not too shabby. I mean, we're not China, but we'll do.
6th Gear: China Sales Grew A Weak-Ass 5% In 2011
And speaking of China, the number of cars sold in China doubled from 2008 to 2010 thanks to government tax incentives and subsidies to help out manufacturers. Now, it's hitting a bit of a roadblock with vehicle sales growing just 5% by volume in 2011, the slowest pace in a decade. That means foreign auto makers now will face two problems as they attempt to climb the mountain that is the largest nation on Earth: Not only are they less welcome in China, but they may soon have to deal with domestic rivals trying to export their surplus vehicles. Awesome. Got any Tang Hua? Nah, go Detroit Fish.