Good Morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.

1st Gear: Damn, Lincoln

As the world (?) awaits the debut of the Lincoln Continental flagship sedan, Lincoln has to make do with what it already has in the lineup. And for the 2017 model year the brand’s best-selling car—the MKZ sedan, believe it or not—gets some big updates including the Continental’s face. It’s the first new car to dump the old mustache split-grille. Via Reuters:

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Ford plans to unveil the restyled 2017 Lincoln MKZ at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Wednesday, showing the first production version of a new grille design. The new Lincoln look debuted on the Continental prototype earlier this year and drew comparisons to British luxury brands such as Jaguar or Bentley.

The 2017 MKZ will get a new 3.0 liter turbo-charged engine Lincoln says will deliver 400 horsepower through an all-wheel drive system. The car’s current six-cylinder engine offers 300 horsepower.

Okay, say what you want about Lincoln, but 400 HP and AWD is nothing to sneeze at. Hell, the restyled MKZ even looks pretty good. Better than it ever has, anyway.

2nd Gear: Sporty Cars!

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Amid the debuts of the new Fiat 124 Spider and the Range Rover Evoque Convertible, we can find where droptops often find their niche these days, reports USA Today:

Convertibles are expected to fall to 0.8% of all new cars purchased this year from 1.2% in 2010, says Tom Libby, auto analyst for IHS Automotive. Coupes, two door models that are usually far sportier than sedans are predicted to fall to 2.8% of the market from 3.7%.

At the same time, crossovers are expected to zoom to 37.2% of the market this year down from 31.3% in 2010.

But sporty cars haven’t lost their cache, Libby says. Rather, they are usually derivations of other vehicles. So if automakers are concentrating on crossovers instead of cars, it’s not as easy to create a convertible or coupe.

3rd Gear: A Peak In 2016?

How long can record sales numbers last? If you ask the chief economist of the National Automobile Dealers Association, pent-up demand being eventually satisfied means new car sales could be satisfied by next year. Here’s Automotive News:

U.S. sales of new cars and light trucks will hit 17.3 million vehicles this year, increase 2.3 percent to a peak of 17.7 million in 2016, then slide to 17.2 million in 2017, Steven Szakaly said today during a conference call with journalists.

Szakaly said he expects annual U.S. light-vehicle sales to stay in the 16.8 million to 17 million range “at least for the next couple of years after that.”

Through October, U.S. sales grew 5.8 percent to 14.5 million vehicles. The seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate last month reached 18.23 million — its highest since July 2005.

4th Gear: Texas Welcomes The Self-Driving Cars

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If you’re in Austin like I am, gird yourself for the appearance of more Google self-driving cars, reports The Detroit News. It’s the first area outside Silicon Valley where Google has done extended testing:

Officials with Google’s self-driving car project say that while they are frustrated California’s Department of Motor Vehicles is nearly a year late in writing rules for early-adopters in the public to get the technology, the company expanded testing to Austin to challenge the cars in a new environment where drivers and pedestrians are unaccustomed to seeing them.

“Austin has always been enthusiastic about innovation,” said Chris Urmson, who has led Google’s self-driving car project for several years. “The people there have been incredibly welcoming.”

If I see one out and about, I’ll challenge it to a burnout contest.

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5th Gear: Los Angeles!

Today marks the start of the 2015 LA Auto Show! You’ve seen a few early leaks and debuts so far, but we’ll have lots more to come including video. Check this tag for all the exciting new car news.

Reverse: Dream Factory

Neutral: Is That Lincoln Good Enough?

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I say it’s a hell of a start. Four hundred horsepower!


Contact the author at patrick@jalopnik.com.