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 Under The Toyota NS4 Concept's Crazy Drug-Induced Conceptual Skirt
Toyota's new design concept, a vehicle they describe as a new plug-in hybrid set to debut at next week's Detroit Auto Show, has only been lightly teased so far. Today, we get a little bit more of a look under the skirt with this preview video. How excited am I? Jeez, can you see my nipples or something? No? Maybe it's because they're more pancake-shaped right now than anything else. Yeah, that's how excited I am not.

2nd Gear: Nissan Blazes A Pathfinder
Set to debut at next week's Detroit Auto Show, here's a quick teaser Nissan's released for its upcoming seven-seater Pathfinder concept. Want to know more? Wouldn't we all. We'll have to wait until next week. But, enjoy the taste now. There's another video here.

3rd Gear: The Encore We Never Wanted
Speaking of boring cars we just don't care about being unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show, there's a new teaser out for the Buick Encore small crossover. Yeah, so far — 3/4 of the way to being fully unveiled — all its succeeding in doing is making us not that excited about next week.

4th Gear: Volvo XC60 Plug-In Hybrid Concept: Because We Needed Another One?
And speaking of boring unveils at the Detroit Auto Show, Volvo's showing a plug-in hybrid version of the company's small XC60 crossover. Basically, it's the same thing as the plug-in hybrid V60 wagon that they'll be selling in Europe this year. Except that it's a crossover instead of a wagon and nixes the diesel engine for a gas one. You know, the good parts. It's powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine rated at 280 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. That's for the front wheels. An electric motor rated for 70 hp and 148 lb-ft can power the rear wheels, and just for fun they've kicked in an electric motor/generator to help out the gasoline engine — and that's rated for 45 hp and 111 lb-ft. Volvo says combined power output of the three units is 350 hp. So thrice the complexity and twice-less the positive. Sure.

5th Gear: The Lexus LF-LC Concept May Save The Detroit Auto Show From Boredom
Just when I thought all hope of awesomeness was long gone, we were greeted this morning with this — the new Lexus LF-Lc concept. The 2+2 concept designed to showcase the next iteration of Lexus design — they've dubbed it L-Finesse — looks, in a word, stunning. From the spindle grille which is supposed to put a fresh twist on the new GS — all the way to the back end — it just looks exciting. I know! A Lexus!

6th Gear: BharatBenz Is Daimler's New "Made in India" Truck
At a sneak preview today for selected Indian journalists, Daimler Truck's Indian subsidiary — Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV) — revealed its new BharatBenz brand heavy-duty truck. This represents the first time Daimler's ever built its own "Made in India" truck — an important selling point in what has become the world's third-largest truck market in recent years, boasting a volume of over 300,000 units in 2011.


⏎ Chrysler CEO to employees: 'You are the authors of a remarkable story'. [Detroit Free Press]

⏎ Ford Expands Detroit Show's Lincoln Stand to Lure Younger Buyers. [Bloomberg]

⏎ Fiat-Chrysler alliance faces speed bumps on way to 6M sales target. [Automotive News]

⏎ Fiat's First Year Back In The U.S. Marred By Missteps. [NPR]

⏎ Tata Nano, world's cheapest car, struggles to gain traction. [Hindustan Times]

⏎ Dealer holds a fire sale to clear out Saab stockpile. [Automotive News]

Today in Automotive History:

On this day in 1996, General Motors announces at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show it will build an electric car, dubbed the EV1, to be launched in the fall of that year. [History]

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