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: Fiat To Start Spending Euros Next Week
Bloomberg says Fiat is expected to begin its long-awaited investment in Italy next week, after a lot of discussion this fall over whether it was confident enough to do so. Bloomberg says CEO Sergio Marchionne is headed for the southern town of Melfi, where he'll give initial details on his plan to build Jeep and Fiat sport utilities, sources told the news agency.
"Marchionne is making a brave choice at the right moment," said Wolfram Mrowetz, chairman of Milan brokerage Alisei Sim. The plan calls for Fiat to produce 19 vehicles in Italy through 2016. Fifteen of them will be for sale in Europe and elsewhere, which could include Chrysler models produced in Italy and exported to the United States. The move is coming even though Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti plans to resign as soon as next week, which some experts think could shake the country's economy.
2nd Gear: Ford Touts C-Max (Pay No Attention To Those Guys In D.C.)
Ford sent us a press release yesterday declaring that the C-Max and C-Max Energi plug-in had beaten the Toyota Prius plug-in and Prius V in November sales, the first full month that the C-Max was available. And, proving that it's paying no attention to Consumer Reports or the Environmental Protection Agency, Ford also maintains in the release that C-Max is EPA-estimated to get 47 miles per gallon in city and highway driving.
Now, there's nothing conclusive about CR's finding that C-Max doesn't perform that well, or the fact that the EPA is investigating those reports. Ford can keep saying 47 mpg until the EPA walks out on stage with a giant hook. But given that the mileage claim is under question, it might be a good idea to wait until EPA gives an all-clear.
3rd Gear: The Big Three For GM With Silverado And Sierra
I took a look for Forbes at the three big challenges that GM faces with the launch of the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. (If you think there are more than three, feel free to list numbers four and beyond below.) This is easily the most important launch that GM has attempted since the bailout, because pickups are so crucial to its bottom line. And if the Treasury Department ever hopes to see the price of GM stock go up, then these trucks have got to knock down all three pins.
First, GM has to deal with those monster inventories of its outgoing trucks. Now that people have had a look, even a brief one at the new trucks, are they going to want the current model? Can GM clear out a quarter-million trucks by spring, when the new ones debut, and can it build up an order bank for the new ones? Second, it has to hit the sweet spot on price. We know what happened with Ford introduced a more-expensive, radically restyled Taurus in 1996: it was DOA. Sure, we know car companies can always boost incentives, but they would like to avoid them in at least the first few months after introduction. Finally, GM has to make sure that quality is bullet proof, especially with the new family of engines that will be on the trucks. For an example of what can go wrong early on, just look at the Ford Escape.
4th Gear: Japanese Carmakers Keep Spending and Hiring
The Birmingham News reports on a new study that estimates Japanese automakers have invested $35 billion in the U.S. since they began building cars here, and now employ 388,000 people. (That's basically the population of Minneapolis.) The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association estimates that 68 percent of the vehicles sold by Japanese companies in the U.S. are now built in North American plants. The report also looks at purchases of auto parts from U.S.-based companies. Those purchases peaked at nearly $50 billion in 2007, but they had plummeted to $38 billion by 2009. By 2011, however, the value of parts purchases had climbed back to $43 billion.
5th Gear: The Ferrari F70 Shakes Its Tail Feathers
We continue to see more photos of the Enzo-replacing Ferrari F70 flagship. We've seen the nose, the 900 hp F70 KERS engine, and video of the whale shark-like profile. So far we've enjoyed what we've seen, although its hard to deny that it looks slightly familiar to us.