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: Buy All The Gas You Want In New Jersey
The New York Times reports that New Jersey will end its post-Sandy gas rationing program today. Gov. Chris Christie made the announcement in a series of tweets. The system was imposed in 12 New Jersey counties on Nov. 3, just days after the state was walloped by the storm, and is credited by officials with keeping lines to a minimum at gas stations, and taking pressure off the state's gas distribution network.
A similar gas rationing system went into effect last Friday in New York City and on Long Island, but there's no telling when that system will be lifted. We saw some tweets Monday that said some gas stations in the city and on the island didn't have lines, but it was a federal holiday. Christie seemed in a pretty jovial mood about how things are going. On his Twitter account, Christie said he's returned to gubernatorial attire. "Now it's time to get back to normal & back to work. That's why I don't have the fleece on. No, I didn't give the fleece to @NBCSNL," he tweeted. "The fleece only comes out at abnormal times."
2nd Gear: You're Sharp, But You're No Akio
The Economist says Japan's ailing gadget companies, like Sony, Sharp and Panasonic, say they want to emulate Toyota and pull off similar turnarounds. But the magazine doesn't think they have much chance of doing so. It says Sharp is in the biggest mess, so much that it actually issued a statement reading, "There exist conditions which might raise uncertainties about Sharp being an assumed going concern. However, we judge that no uncertainties about Sharp's ability to continue as a going concern will exist." (Yes, that's what it said.) Standard & Poor's responded by putting Sharp's debt rating deeper into junk territory.
Is there anything they can learn from Toyota? The Economist says their empires are so thinly spread across an array of businesses that it is harder to cut costs through economies of scale. (Just think, these were once held up as examples to Detroit.) They are also too wedded to Japan to move to cheaper manufacturing locations. But Akio Toyoda has one lesson to teach: "They could put more energy into making products that consumers enjoy. That's what their competitors in South Korea and at Apple do. Sadly, they are too busy stanching the wounds of the past to give it much thought."
3rd Gear: UAW Trust Wants Fiat To Pony Up For Chrysler
Bloomberg reports that the UAW's health care trust wants Fiat to pay way more for a 3.3 percent stake in Chrysler than Fiat thinks it is worth. In a court filing in Deleware, the VEBA trust says the stake is worth $342 million. That's 1.5 times more than the $139.7 million that Fiat has offered to pay, and the increased valuation comes at a time when Fiat's cash is dropping, due to its woes in Europe. Fiat had 20 billion Euros on hand at the end of the third quarter, down from 22.7 billion Euros at the end of the second quarter. A judge might rule on the matter by the end of the year, although the two sides can always sit down to find some common ground.
4th Gear: If You Work For VW, You Get These Awesome Deals
The Washington Post has discovered that people who work for car companies get some sweetheart deals on cars. Specifically, it looked at Volkswagen and the perks that its 500 employees in Herndon, Va., receive. They can lease a new VW or Audi every six to 12 months at 1.5 percent of the retail price, the Post says. The company pays for maintenance, registration and car insurance. Lease payments come right out of paychecks, so employees don't have to worry about making payments. The program is also offered an an employee's spouse, children, parents, and spouse's parents. Each employee can have four cars under this policy at any given time. That's one small step for VW, one giant leap for beigekrieg.