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: Feds Hire Restructuring Adviser To Assist Fisker Funding Efforts
Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Energy Department, which has loaned $193 million to Fisker, hired a restructuring adviser to track the company's capital-raising efforts. The agency retained Los Angeles-based Houlihan Lokey after freezing the automaker's $529 million credit line because of delays with Fisker's $103,000 plug-in hybrid Karma sedan. "To ensure the strongest possible management of its portfolio, the department's loan program often hires industry-leading consultants to supplement the work performed by experts in the program," the Energy Department said in an e-mailed statement that didn't comment on Fisker. "In October 2011, the department contracted with Houlihan Lokey to provide expert assistance on a variety of projects in the portfolio." Fisker failed to start making or selling cars by deadlines tied to its U.S. loan agreement, said a person familiar with the matter.
2nd Gear: Fitch Says Ford Is No Longer Junk
Ford and Ford Credit were raised from "junk" to investment grade by Fitch Ratings, which cited the company's "significantly improved financial performance." The rating service raised the issuer default rating of Ford and Ford Credit to BBB-, the lowest investment grade, from BB+. The move is being hailed as "an important proof point of the continued progress" at the automaker, Ford said in a statement on its website. Also, that they can actually raise some cash now if they need to.
3rd Gear: Chrysler To Continue Saving Fiat's Financial Ass
Yet again it looks like Chrysler's going to save Fiat's Italian fat from the fire. Later this week European car manufacturers will begin announcing their financial results for the first quarter and Fiat, Chrysler's Italian owner, looks like it's still suffering from the region's economic woes. According to the Detroit News, investment bank Credit Suisse thinks Fiat will lose at least $93 million in the first quarter. Ominously, net debt is expected to rise to about $8.1 billion from $7.2 billion at the end of 2011. As Fiat's sales dropped 11%, Chrysler's rose more than 30%, and Credit Suisse expects earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) of $793 million to more than make up for Fiat's red ink. We'll know for sure when Fiat-Chrysler reports results on April 26th.
4th Gear: Bugatti Wei Long 2012 Is Yet Another Special Edition Veyron
Bugatti rolled out yet another special edition Veyron at this week's Beijing Auto Show. It's called the Wei Long 2012. Based on the Veyron Grand Sport convertible, the Wei Long 2012 was built to commemorate the Chinese year of the Dragon with Königliche Porzellan Manufaktur Berlin, the same firm responsible for last year's Veyron L'Or Blanc. The supercar's been fitted with several porcelain pieces on the body and in the cabin. As you'd expect, they depict a dragon. Other details include a pearl white exterior with a contrasting carmine red interior, headrests embroidered with similar Chinese dragon-like characters, and hand-crafted pure silk floor mats embossed with even more dragon logos. While we doubt the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Wei Long 2012 is still up for sale, it's priced at approximately $2.08 million.
5th Gear: Big Fuel Officially Shuts Down Detroit Office
The Detroit Free Press reports that social media agency Big Fuel's Detroit office is officially closed. If you remember, the New York firm opened a downtown Detroit office in late 2010 after landing the social media account for all of General Motors' U.S. brands. But GM ended its relationship with Big Fuel last fall as part of its agency review, giving social media work to the ad shops that serve each individual brand. Big Fuel began cutting its Detroit staff from several dozen employees down to a handful finishing up a few small projects for GM. But the firm has now officially closed its office on the second floor of 150 W. Jefferson.
6th Gear: A Carmageddon "Baby Boom" In California?
CBS reports that a "Carmageddon" baby boom may be happening in Los Angeles, nine months after construction shut down the busy 405 Freeway in Los Angeles for an entire weekend. At the time, residents were warned to stay home and off the roads — a "only in LA" kind of stories — when the shutdown of a 10-mile stretch of one of the busiest freeways in the car-dependent city caused fear and anxiety over visions of 60-mile traffic jams. Only it ended up as an automotive apocalypse now most well-known for spawning this photo than anything else. But, residents stayed home that weekend. The result? A mini baby boom. They've seen it at The Pump Station, a place for new moms to come for breast feeding tips. Corky Harvey, co-founder, said, "People just stayed home and had a relaxing time. Well, relaxation and there you go." Yes, there you go.