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: Hertz Will Soon Control Most Of The Rental Car World
The New York Times says Hertz is going to buy Dollar Thrifty Automotive which it has been after for years. The company has outbid its rival, Avis, and is going to pay about $2.5 billion for the company. You might remember that Chrysler once owned Dollar Thrifty, but it was spun off in 1997. Likewise, Hertz was part of Ford for a while, and went private before it became a public company again in 2008. The Dollar Thrifty deal means Hertz has taken on two more visible brands, making it even more of a powerhouse in dealing with consumers and car companies. Since there are some antitrust concerns in creating such a big company, Hertz is agreeing to spin off its Advantage unit as part of the deal. the Times says.

2nd Gear: GM To Candidates: Stay Away Until After The Election
The Detroit Free Press reports General Motors has banned political candidates from its plants until after the November election. "We would like to put all of our energy behind selling our cars and trucks," Bob Ferguson, GM's vice president for global public policy, told the newspaper. "It's an understatement to say we can't wait for November to get here." The move means neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney will be using GM factories for photo ops — although neither one can be banned from talking about GM during the fall campaign. It's a little uncomfortable for GM to disinvite Obama, since the Treasury Department holds 32 percent of GM stock. But for now, at least, Obama will have to rely on footage from past GM visits, like his trip to the Lake Orion plant last October.

3rd Gear: The Next Mercedes C-Class Is Out Running around
Car Magazine has spy shots of the next-generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class, even though the current version just got an overhaul. It says this version of C-Class will probably be in showrooms around 2015. Mercedes is relying on the C-Class as the linchpin of its small car strategy, and the car is so important that it's going to be built at its plant in Alabama. Car spotted the next C-Class on the Nurburgring, and says it actually looks production ready. It expects elements of other Mercedes models to show up on the next C-Class, including new tail lights.

4th Gear: An Era Ends For Mazda In Flat Rock
The Detroit News reports that the last American Mazda was built on Friday, ending an era for the Japanese automaker. The final Mazda rolled off the assembly line at Auto Alliance in Flat Rock, Mich., where Mazda has built cars since 1987. For the past 20 years, Mazda and Ford have operated a joint venture there, and now Mazda production is over. Ford plans to invest $550 million in the plant and add 1,200 more jobs. The plant will remain a 50-50 joint venture between the two companies, and they'll look for other Mazda vehicles that could be built there, according to the News. Over the years, the plant has built vehicles like the Ford Probe and twin Mazda MX6, the Ford Mustang and the Mazda6. Ford and Mazda have had a relationship since 1970 and Ford at one time had management control of Mazda. But it began to unload its Mazda stake in 2008, when the industry was in its deep crisis.

Reverse: LBJ Is Born; Will Create Work For Robert Caro and New Rules For Car Companies
This would have been Lyndon Baines Johnson's 114th birthday, and his era as president changed life for the auto industry forever (not to mention his leisurely biographer, Robert Caro). Johnson, for his part, was known for his love of the Lincoln Continental. He reportedly liked to drive around his ranch, shooting jack rabbits from behind the wheel. Would LBJ have been a Jalop? [History]

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