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: BMW Will Beat Mercedes-Benz, Become New Luxury Sales Champ For 2011
If you think sales numbers are just a meaningless "horse race" created by the press, you obviously aren't watching the stare-down between Mercedes-Benz and BMW over U.S. sales. If you were paying attention yesterday you may have noticed neither German automaker's released their U.S. sales numbers yet. Speculation is that each is waiting for the other to release their numbers first because both will dethrone Lexus' reign as top-selling luxury brand — but only one gets the crown in the United States for 2011. While BMW led the sales race heading into December, the lead had narrowed to just 1,600 vehicles. Autodata, however, isn't willing to wait for the official release. They're telling us that BMW's sales rose 16% to 27,000 in December — giving them an estimated 248,073 vehicles sold for 2011, outselling Mercedes by 2,804 vehicles.

2nd Gear: Chevy Chevelle Headed To Detroit Auto Show?
So we told you earlier this morning that GM has some kind of a "surprise" concept they're bringing to next week's Detroit Auto Show. We're pretty sure it's a Chevrolet. We're also pretty sure that it's a retro-styled compact-ish car. And by "compact-ish," I mean that it's smaller than a mid-size sedan. The name Chevelle keeps popping up too. GM also owns the trademark on "Chicane" as a vehicle name, for what that's worth. We're interested to know what you've heard and what you think about either name. Let us know in the comments.

3rd Gear: Fiat Ups Stake In Chrysler Another 5% To 58.5%
Fiat has raised its stake in Chrysler Group by 5% to 58.5%, meeting a final target set by the U.S. government. Sergio Marchionne, CEO of both groups, said in a statement on Thursday that "the acquisition of a further 5 percent of Chrysler is a fundamental step in completion of the integration between our two groups." All your Chryslers will soon belong even more to Italy.

4th Gear: See The 2013 Cadillac ATS Rendered Leaving Little For Speculation
Car renderer Josh Byrnes sent CarScoop a very well executed rendering of the 2013 Cadillac ATS — the BMW 3-Series-fighter GM's unveiling Sunday night ahead of the Detroit Auto Show. Judging by the spy photos we've seen, we think this rendering looks like it could be pretty damn close to the real thing. What do you think?

5th Gear: Dacia Hocks A Lodgy Ahead Of Geneva
The Detroit Auto Show hasn't even happened yet — but many Euro-only brands are focused entirely on the Geneva Motor Show. Like Dacia. Screw the Sandero, as Dacia's gone even more boring with the Lodgy minivan unveiled today. According to Dacia, the Lodgy name comes from the word "lodge" and refers to the van's main purpose, which is to accommodate a family and its luggage. We just think they spelled "loogie" wrong.

6th Gear: Porsche's Four-Door, Diesel U.S. Future
Although Porsche will launch a new 911 drop-top variant at next week's Detroit Auto Show, the little Beetle-built brand's also confirmed what everyone knew — they'll launch its first-ever diesel model in the U.S., the Cayenne Diesel, in the second half of the year. Before that, they'll drop the latest Panamera GTS — 430 HP V8 engine, FTW — this spring.


⏎ Americans bought more cars and trucks last year. [AP via Bloomberg]

⏎ Larger autos are being displayed in New Delhi. [Detroit Free Press]

⏎ Are U.S. Autos Set To Rebound? [Seeking Alpha]

⏎ Female-oriented automotive sites are hitting the Web, attracting attention. [Detroit Free Press]


⏎ JustShareIt Enters Suddenly Crowded, and Wary, Car-Sharing Market. [New York Times]

⏎ Auto show gets its 2nd wind. [Detroit News]

Today in Automotive History:

On this day in 1933, construction starts on what will become one of America's most famous landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge. When completed in 1937, the Golden Gate has a 4,200-foot-long suspension span, making it the world's longest suspension bridge. Since opening to the public in May 1937, almost 2 billion vehicles have crossed the bridge, in both the north- and southbound directions. [History]

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