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 May Build All Its Jeep Models In China
Bloomberg reports that Chrysler is planning to return Jeep production to China, and may eventually assemble all its Jeep models there for sale in the Chinese market. According to Bloomberg, Fiat is in "very detailed conversations" with its Chinese partner, Guangzhou Automobile Group , about making Jeeps in the world's largest auto market, said Mike Manley, chief operating officer of Fiat and Chrysler in Asia. Chrysler hasn't built Jeeps there since before Fiat took control in 2009. You might remember that Chrysler ran into some problems with its technology being stolen. But Fiat sees a big opportunity for Jeep in China, especially in light of the market's collapse in Europe. "The volume opportunity for us is very significant," Manley says.
UPDATE: Chrysler now says Jeep production in China will not occur and the article was misconstrued.
2nd Gear: Somebody Is Shooting At Cars Outside Detroit
The Detroit News says police released a sketch last night of a man who is believed to be shooting at cars along Interstate 96 between Detroit and Lansing, Mich. There have been a series of random shootings in Ingham, Livingston and Oakland counties that some officials are comparing with the Beltway sniper near Washington, D.C., a decade ago. The shootings started Tuesday, and more reports have come in to police. The shooter is believed to be driving a dark-colored 1998 Oldsmobile Alero or Toyota Camry. No one has been injured, but police have examined cars with bullet holes, and people report hearing shots and feeling bullets whiz by. The shooter is described as a white male in his late 20s or early 30s with beard stubble. What makes the shootings especially worrisome is that they're taking place around sunset or later, and it's getting darker earlier in the Detroit area now that daylight savings time is drawing to a close.
3rd Gear: Nissan Plans To Build A Cheaper Leaf
The Financial Times (via Reuters) reports Nissan is planning to roll out a cheaper version of the Leaf, in hopes of boosting electric vehicle sales. Nissan sold 12,000 Leafs in the first half of the year, which was up 11 percent from 2011, but it will fall short of its goal of selling 40,000 Leafs during 2012. "The main hesitation in buying the car is from range anxiety. Maybe we were over optimistic with the ramp-up as well," Nissan executive vice-president, Andy Palmer, was quoted as saying in the FT. There's no word on how much cheaper the lower-priced version will be or when it will hit the market.
4th Gear: Good Day In Flat Rock
The Detroit Free Press says Ford plans to make its Flat Rock, Mich., plant a production hub for mid-sized cars in a few years. That could assure the plant's future, and bring even more jobs than the 1,400 Ford plans to add there, now that Mazda has stopped making cars at Flat Rock. The Freep says Ford plans to move production of the Taurus and Lincoln MKS to Flat Rock, which builds the Mustang and will be adding the Fusion in February. The shift would take place around 2014. Ford wouldn't comment.
This could make things a little touchy for Ford's plant in Chicago, which builds the Taurus and MKS alongside the Explorer and also builds police versions of the Taurus and Explorer. That plant is operating on three shifts, and both President Barack Obama and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have touted the plant as proof that the auto bailout worked. But since Chicago is so high profile, and Emanuel moved some political mountains to get more jobs there, Ford most likely will look for something else to put there.
Reverse: Highways Get Some Help From Lady Bird Johnson
On this day in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Highway Beautification Act, meant to clear away junk yards, billboards and unsightly stuff from the sides of the nation's freeway. It had a powerful advocate in the nation's first lady, Lady Bird Johnson. Mrs. Johnson led beautification efforts in her home state of Texas, and if you've ever seen the bluebonnets and wildflowers in bloom there, you know how pretty a highway can look. Some people say the act was the first big step of the environmental movement, even though the billboard lobby was none too happy about it. [History]
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