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: Maserati Gran Turismo Sport Is The "New" S
Maserati has unveiled the first images and details for the new GranTurismo Sport that the trident-slinging brand will unveil at next month's Geneva Motor Show as a replacement for the GranTurismo S. Although we're being charitable to Maser's marketing mavens in calling this facelift a "new car" — but whatever, we'll roll with it. This "new car" is powered by a 4.7-liter V8 engine producing 460 HP allowing it to accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in under five seconds. Full official specs aren't yet available, but fear not, we'll get them next month.
2nd Gear: Mini Unloads Clubvan
Automotive history works like a circle. Back in 1960, the original Mini birthed a panel van. A year later, that panel van birthed the Traveller Wagon. The Traveller Wagon inspired the current Mini Clubman. And the Mini Clubman is now the basis for... a panel van. That's right, it's this — the new 2013 Mini Clubvan that will debut at next month's Geneva Motor Show. Although it's a concept— expect it to enter production by the end of the year.The Clubvan basically takes the existing Mini Clubman model, rips the seats out and extends a carpeted load floor from the split rear doors to an aluminum bulkhead just behind the front seats. No dimensions have been provided, but since the Clubman has 32.8 cubic feet of space with the rear seats flat, we can assume something at least that size. But who would buy it? Who knows, but since it says Mini on it, we're guessing a lot of folks will.
3rd Gear: Aston Martin Revamps Vantage
Aston Martin's revealed a slew of engineering updates and styling revamps for the 2012 Vantage model lineup. They're calling it the biggest range overhaul since 2008 — and by that, they mean they've made a change to the V8 Vantage and Vantage S. For starters, the base 420 hp V8 Vantage getting upgrades first seen on the Vantage S — like quicker steering thanks to a new steering column and power steering, bigger brakes (new 380mm two-piece ventilated cast-iron front discs and six-piston calipers) and wider tires (10 mm!). There's also a brake-holding Hill Start Assist set-up included standard and the new seven-speed Sportshift II automated manual transmission is now available as an option. The 2012 V8 Vantage gets styling changes inspired by the Vantage S and limited-edition Vantage N420 including a new lower front bumper and air splitter, restyled sills and a new rear diffuser-equipped bumper. The 430bhp Vantage S gets the new Sportshift II gearbox standard, a sports exhaust, a "motorsport-derived" aero package and a hand-stitched leather interior. The V12 Vantage remains unchanged.
4th Gear: Rinspeed's put more details behind their "backpack on wheels" concept they'll be unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show next month. Basically, the Rinspeed Dock+Go Concept takes a two-seater electric smart fortwo and slaps a docking station on the rear end that gives it an extra battery pack as well as cargo or space depending on needs. The cool thing part about the docking station is how the axle connects to the third row of wheels charges the battery, giving the electric smart an even greater range on a single charge. The third axle even drives the rotating second axle — that'll help the smart's onboard battery re-charge too. The docking station can be fashioned into a number of different types. Our favorite? The one that turns it into an El Camino-like pickup truck.
5th Gear: Abarth "Builds" An Itty-Bitty Maserati
Three years ago, it was the "Tributo Ferrari." Now, it's the Abarth 695 Tributo Maserati, making its international debut at the Geneva Motor Show, that is the new Limited Edition (just 499 units) collaboration between Fiat and one of Fiat's stable of super car brands. The Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari was the "utmost expression of Abarth's sporty character and racing spirit." This new Limited Edition is designed to epitomize "sheer elegance united to the comfort of a 'GranTurismo'." To start with, the 1.4 Turbo T-Jet 16v engine has been boosted to 180 HP and mated to the electrically-operated manual Abarth Competizione gearbox with steering wheel controls. The car also has 17" alloy wheels (they get a special 'Neptun' design straight from Maserati) and performance tires — plus Brembo 305mm brake disks with fixed four-piston calipers and special shock absorbers. But will it sound like a Maserati? No. But they'll try to make it sound close to one — thanks to a "Record Monza" variable back-pressure "dual mode" exhaust, designed to improve engine performance and deliver an "inspiring sound" at 3,000 rpm and above, along with tailpipes modified to assume the hexagonal shape marking a Maserati.
6th Gear: Fiat Almost Ran Charlie Sheen Commercial During Super Bowl
Fiat's "Seduction" commercial was a hit during this month's Super Bowl, but the commercial Fiat didn't run might have made more news. Apparently, Chrysler shot a commercial for the Fiat 500 featuring Charlie Sheen. The automaker, according to Automotive News, even showed it to Fiat dealers at this year's National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention in Las Vegas. The spot shows Sheen racing around inside a mansion behind the wheel of the 500 with hot women surrounding his indoor course. At the end of his journey, the door opens and Sheen's leg — complete with ankle bracelet — comes into view. Sheen then declares that "house arrest" isn't so bad, according to those who have seen the spot.
⏎ Fisker: My company is 'viable, self-funded' [Automotive News]
⏎ Ford's Mr. Inside, in Sight of the Crown. [New York Times]
⏎ Kyle Busch nudges Stewart to win wreck-filled Bud Shootout. [USA Today]
⏎ With Lincoln, Ford determined to get luxury branding right this time. [Detroit Free Press]
⏎ Daimler to Invest $1 Billion With China's Beiqi in Truck Venture. [Bloomberg]
⏎ John Krafcik is Hyundai's hands-on CEO. [Detroit Free Press]
⏎ Multiple cars vandalized in Massapequa area. [Newsday]
Today in Automotive History:
On this day in 1934, Robert William "Bobby" Unser was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "Bobby" is the brother of Al Unser, Jerry Unser and Louie Unser, the father of Robby Unser, and the uncle of Al Unser, Jr. and Johnny Unser. He is one of seven drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 three times, and one of only two to have won the 500 in three different decades (1968, 75, 81). [Wikipedia]