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: GM Is The Biggest Automaker In The World... Again
General Motors announced final 2011 sales yesterday — 9.03 million vehicles worldwide. That allows GM to regain its spot as the world's top-selling automaker, besting both Volkswagen and a Toyota hobbled by floods, earthquakes and a tsunami. GM's deliveries rose 7.6% from 8.39 million in 2010, the company said on its website, topping analyst's estimates and exceeding the 9 million mark for the first time since 2007. Toyota, which ended GM's 77-year reign as the world's largest automaker in 2008, hasn't reported full-year results. Toyota has estimated that 2011 calendar year sales will decrease 6% to 7.9 million. All we have to say is: U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A! Now try not to fuck things up again, k?
2nd Gear: Chevy "Happy Grad" Is First GM Super Bowl Commercial, Joins Confirmed Cadillac ATS Ad
Zach Borst, a 26-year-old aspiring filmmaker from Long Island, N.Y., won GM's "Route 66" contest to create one of Chevrolet's Super Bowl ads. His film shows a new high school graduate who mistakenly thinks his parents bought him a new Chevy Camaro convertible for a graduation present only to have a neighbor drive it off in it. The ad contest launched last September and received 198 films, which Chevy ad folks narrowed to 33 finalists in December. Chevy is paying Borst $25,000 to use his film. General Motors has a total of five 30-second ad slots for the Super Bowl on February 5th. One of the slots has been confirmed to be used for a Cadillac ATS commercial — and a total of one or two of the slots will be used by this new Chevy commercial. We're also told by GM CMO Joel Ewanick that they may choose to run the much-loved tear-jerker Chevy dad ad from November in the remaining slots.
3rd Gear: Chinese Automaker Still Interested In Potentially Maybe Possibly Buying Saab
Bloomberg reports that Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co., the Chinese carmaker that was in talks to buy Saab before the Swedish company's bankruptcy, said it's again in discussions about a purchase deal. The Chinese carmaker may make a revised offer for Saab next week. Mahindra, India's biggest sport-utility vehicle maker, is also interested in buying parts of Saab, two people familiar with the situation said last month.
4th Gear: Kia Recalls 145,000 Vehicles Over Faulty Airbags
The Detroit News is reporting that Kia is recalling 145,000 vehicles — 95,569 2006-08 Optima cars and 50,186 2007-08 Rondo crossovers — to fix faulty airbags. Kia said the clock spring contact assembly for the driver's airbag supplemental restraint system may become damaged through usage over time. The condition will cause the airbag warning lamp on the instrument panel to illuminate, notifying the driver that the airbag system requires service, and may cause the driver's airbag to not deploy in a crash. This, of course, could lead to fiery death!
5th Gear: Infiniti Drags A Porsche Panamera S Into The Desert
Infiniti sent out an email to us — and CarScoop among others — with a YouTube video link titled "What is the fastest accelerating full hybrid?" The teaser clip shows a Stig-ish driver getting into a Porsche Panamera S Hybrid in what appears to be Death Valley. Infiniti's email told us to "Check out this teaser video and let us know where you think it's going…. Don't miss the results, coming January 23rd, 2012." Sounds like Infiniti plans to drag race the M35h hybrid vs. the Panamera hybrid, right? Let me go grab the popcorn. Don't worry if the race starts before I'm back as I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to make it before the end.
6th Gear: Volkswagen Still Wants To Be The "Automotive" Apple
According to Autocar, Volkswagen wants to become the automotive equivalent of Apple with its new car designs. Speaking at the CC's launch in France, VW CC exterior design chief, Martin Kropp, said: "You have Apple and you have other products. This is what VW wants to be." But that's not all VW wants to be. Kropp also said that inspiration for the styling revisions to VW's revised swoopy four-door came from Mont Blanc fountain pens and designer watches. "You enjoy looking at all these products," he said.
⏎ Detroit Auto Writer Hears From An Angry Reader. [Romenesko]
⏎ Dismantling Detroit. [New York Times]
⏎ Jeep, Kia And Chrysler Paced New Car Registration Growth in 2011, Says Edmunds.com. [Marketwatch]
⏎ Where have all the 80s gone? [Chicago Tribune]
⏎ Fiat Eyes $1-Billion Jeep Plant in Russia. [Edmunds InsideLine]
⏎ Chrysler, GM wait on raises, bonuses. [Detroit News]
⏎ Which Car Fantasies Should Come to Life? [Wall Street Journal]
⏎ Nissan sells 10,000th Leaf in States, ready for next phase of EVs. [Autoblog Green]
Today in Automotive History:
On January 20, 1909, newly formed automaker General Motors (GM) buys into the Oakland Motor Car Corporation, which later becomes GM's long-running Pontiac division. [History]