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: Go Vote
Today is election day in the United States. Throughout the campaign, the auto industry has constantly been kicked around like a soccer ball at the World Cup. President Obama claimed to have saved it. Mitt Romney claimed to have invented the bailout. Auto workers became icons, there were falsehoods about Chinese cars, and swear words from auto executives. All that's over, taking Obama's voice with it (did you hear him last night?) Now, it's time to exercise your inalienable right — one that people in other countries are jailed for demanding. Go to the polls, and vote. Otherwise, you have no right to complain if you don't like who winds up in office. Take the kids along, too, and tell them to shush if they're bored. This is when we get to see democracy in action.
2nd Gear: Toyota, BMW Are Rich, Nissan Not So Much
The New York Times reports Toyota has raised its profit forecast to $9.7 billion for fiscal 2012. That's 2.6 percent higher than its previous estimate and comes despite the spat that's taking place between Japan and China. But Toyota admits the dispute will have an impact on its sales. It's lowering its full-year production estimate to 8.75 million vehicles, from 8.8 million vehicles. Actually, China will hurt Toyota less than other Japanese auto companies. The Times reports that Measured by unit, China accounted for 12.6 percent of Toyota's global sales in 2011, compared with 19.38 percent at Honda and 26.7 percent at Nissan.
That's a reason why Nissan cut its profit forecast by 20 percent today. According to Bloomberg, Nissan now expects net income of $4 billion for its fiscal year. It cut its global sales target by 5 percent to just over 5 million. Meanwhile, BMW says strong sales in China actually helped it offset the Euro crisis affecting so many of its competitors. It said its earnings for the third quarter were up 14 percent. It acknowledges its full year results could be affected by deteriorating global markets, but is sticking with its forecasts.
3rd Gear: The Next Prius: Evolution or Revolution?
Meanwhile. Bloomberg reports that Toyota is thinking about changing the tear-drop shaped look of the hybrid-electric Prius. "There's an undercurrent among most people that they're ready for a new Prius look," said Chris Hostetter, Toyota's U.S. group vice president for strategic planning, who's working with Toyota engineers on the redesign. "Maybe our architecture has been a little bit similar for the last two generations." Hostetter says Toyota is studying whether to evolve "or really evolve it," meaning a significantly different look. The company is working on the next-generation Prius, but it isn't due for a year or so.
Toyota is seeing strong demand for all of its Prius lineup. Due to additional cars like the Prius V and Prius C, sales of all Priuses are up 60 percent from 2011, Bloomberg says. "Up to now the shape they've had was perfect for that product; it was distinctive and said, ‘This is a hybrid vehicle,'" said John Wolkonowicz, an independent analyst in Boston who specializes in automotive history. "But it also appealed to only a certain type of buyer. It's time to move to a broader market."
4th Gear: New Life For A Very Old Ford Plant
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that a Ford plant dating from 1912 has come back to life as an office building. And, the Ford Center in Minneapolis' North Loop is 99.5 percent leased. The building was a Model T plant and was Ford's original Twin Cities factory before the company moved across the river to St. Paul. (That factory closed in mid-December.) The building, which sits in the shadow of Target Field, has six major tenants, and the owners want to bring in some kind of food vendor. The renovation cost $40 million but shows that there can be creative re-uses for the ghosts of old Detroit.