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: Chrysler's having a pretty good news day today. First, they've reported net income of $225 million in the fourth quarter giving the automaker its first annual profit since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009. Second, the plucky little Italian-owned automaker reported January U.S. sales of 101,149, a 44% increase compared with sales in January 2011 — giving it the group's best January sales since 2008. In the Chrysler brand alone they saw an 81% jump in sales year-to-year. Insane, right? But how much of that is fleet sales? Apparently, 28% in the 4th quarter — up from their target of 20%. All I know is I'm seeing a lot of Chrysler 300s, Dodge Chargers and Jeep Grand Cherokees sitting in rental lots when I travel.
2nd Gear: Watch Darth Vader Strike Back In Volkswagen Beetle Super Bowl Ad
Two weeks after seeing Volkswagen's adorable teaser for their Super Bowl ad featuring dogs barking the Imperial March from Star Wars, here now is the automaker's extended-length Super Bowl commercial. More »
3rd Gear: This Is The BMW X4 AutoExpress has put together a couple renderings — with inside information — that they say is what we should expect the BMW X4 will look when it rolls off the U.S. production line in 2014. It's clear where the car takes its styling cues from given the swooping, X6-like roofline blending into a bolder ass. But the images also show unique lights and bumpers in both the front and the back, as well as a distinctive grille. The X4 will share its platform with the X3 — and get the same engine lineup — and is essentially supposed to be "a sportier version" of that Car-UV — just as the X6 is supposed to be a racier take on the X5.
4th Gear: Three Reasons It's Time For GM To Give Up On Opel
For more than a decade, Opel — the true European arm of General Motors and the crutch the automaker used to stay upright in the early 90s — has faced one crisis after another. We're now in the midst of another turnaround attempt at the brand, with GM expected to announce a second-consecutive annual loss in Europe this month. Forbes' Micki Maynard walks us through the three reasons GM now needs to think about whether it's time to throw in the towel.
5th Gear: EcoBoost-Equipped Ford Falcon To Get 18% Better Fuel Economy
Ford's dropping an EcoBoost four-banger into the Falcon to give the car a fuel economy boost that GoAuto tells us will likely equate to an 18% bump over current six-cylinder Falcons, making it Australia's most fuel-efficient locally-build gas-engined full-size car. The turbo-charged engine will churn out around 260 lb-ft o' torque — more than the larger V6 engines offered in Holden's Commodore and Toyota's Aurion — while supposedly costing no more than Falcon models equipped with the 4.0-liter six-cylinder engine powerplant in the recently-facelifted FG Mark II Falcon. That engine will run in the car until 2016. Beyond that? Who knows.
6th Gear: World Car Fans shows us the first images of the McLaren MP4-27, as Vodaphone McLaren-Mercedes becomes the first of the front-line Formula 1 teams to unveil their challenger for the 2012 season. The MP4-27 was showcased at the McLaren Technology Centre just a few hours ago and is described as a "natural evolution of last year's six-race-winning car" although — as WCF points out — all major systems have received an overhaul. The race car sports a tightly waisted rear bodywork that improves airflow to the rear and it also houses a modified cooling system that re-directs the gearbox oil-cooler. And eew, how ugly is that nose?
⏎ 1.6M auto parts jobs at risk because of Chinese trade practices. [Detroit News]
⏎ Auto companies and the Super Bowl? It's a dance that's fraught with peril. [Autoextremist]
⏎ VW adds 200 jobs at Tennessee plant. [Detroit News]
⏎ Pep Boys Seen Gaining 27% as Cheapest Value Lures Bids. [Bloomberg]
⏎ Auto stocks are on a roll. [Marketwatch]
⏎ Auto dealers see sunshine after prolonged period of gloom. [MSNBC]
⏎ Hyundai Sonata hybrid battery lifetime warranty comes with a catch. [Torque News]
⏎ Honda reports sharp drop in profit. [AP via Detroit Free Press]
Today in Automotive History:
During the Super Bowl on this day in 2004, the first TV commercial airs for the Ford GT, a new, high-performance "supercar" based on Ford's GT40 race car, which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in France four years in a row starting in 1966. The TV ad for the two-seater Ford GT featured a driver's eye view of the car noisily zooming around California's Thunderhill Raceway, and ended with the tag line: "The Pace Car for an Entire Company." [History]