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: Italiani Soffrono Di Prezzi Elevati Del Gas
Bloomberg reports Italians are saying basta to high fuel prices. They are paying the most for fuel of any nation in Europe, the equivalent of $9.50 per gallon (fuel there is sold in liters). The price is up 20 percent from a year ago, and Italians are trying to find ways to cut their fuel bills. Many are using public transportation, others are filling up in nearby Croatia, and some are giving up on cars altogether. Auto sales in Italy are down 20 percent from a year ago and the average family is now spending more on fuel than on food. Bloomberg says the fuel price crisis is deepening Italiy's fourth recession since 2001. Hearing about Italy makes us feel a little better about paying $4.09 this week.
2nd Gear: Clint Eastwood Calls Air Force One A Gas Guzzler
Fox News has a transcript of Chrysler spokesman Clint Eastwood's speech to the Republican National Convention last night, where he talked to an empty chair. The chair was supposed to symbolize President Obama, and Eastwood, in a rambling talk, endorsed Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, although he left half of Twitter thinking it was okay to vote for Obama, too. "I never thought that it was a good idea for attorneys to be president, anyway," Eastwood said, apparently forgetting that Romney has a degree from the Harvard Law School. "What do you think, maybe it's time for a businessman, a stellar businessman?"
Telling the absent Obama that he could keep a smaller plane, Eastwood continued to the chair, "Not that big gas guzzler you are going around to colleges and talking about student loans and stuff like that. You're an ecological man. Why would you want to drive that around?" The biggest cheer came when Eastwood declared, "We own this country. It's not you owning it, and not politicians owning it — politicians are employees of ours." He wound up by leading the crowd in a chant of "Make my day," and proving it was pretty clear he was reading a script for Halftime In America.
We can't wait for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte so we can make fun of them trying to understand NASCAR.
3rd Gear: Is VW Working On A Diesel Plug-In Hybrid?
Motor Authority snagged some spy shots of the 2014 Volkswagen XL1 — or at least a super efficient vehicle that's based on the XL1 concept car. Motor Authority suspects that the vehicle could be diesel plug-in hybrid. If so, the XL1 puts VW in the plug-in hybrid game, where it has been conspicuously absent. The engine that Motor Authority thinks is in the car only would produce 74 horsepower, but that seems to be plenty, since the vehicle only weighs 1,700 pounds, given its aluminum and carbon fiber construction. Needless to say, this wouldn't be a mass market VW, but its fuel economy would be truly impressive. Motor Authority points out the concept car got the equivalent of 261 mpg. It thinks the next XL1 will be displayed at next year's Frankfurt show.
4th Gear: GM Wants Kansas City To Build It A Paint Shop
Fox 4 News says General Motors is thinking about making a big investment in its Fairfax, Kansas, plant, and it wants local government officials to issue bonds to help pay for it. Here's how the plan would work. GM is asking the United Government (what they call the combined city/county administrative body) to sell $120 million in bonds to pay for a 400,000 square foot expansion. Wyandotte County would own the building, and GM would pay off the bonds as it makes lease payments. GM is the county's largest private employer, and the United Government's biggest taxpayer. Local officials say they wouldn't be obligated to repay the bonds if GM stops leasing the building. GM is likely to receive a 10-year tax abatement. By the way, GM isn't promising to add any jobs at the plant, which has about 4,000 people; the project would simply be to retain jobs there.
Reverse: Let The Sun Shine, On A Car
On this day in 1956, GM's William Cobb demonstrated the Sunmobile, a 15-inch-long solar car. It was shown at the GM Powerama in Chicago. More than half a century later, a commercially viable solar car still hasn't reached the market. But solar car competitions are held all over the world, and there have been rumors in Japan that Toyota has one in the works. However, it's likely solar cars will stay in the shadows for some time to come. [History]
In keeping with our new discussion system, here's a place for you to own the floor. We're asking each day what you think about an issue that comes up in TMS.
Today, we'd like to hear what you're paying for gas or diesel. Tell us where you are and how much it cost you to fill up last time out. Are you changing any of your driving habits because gas prices have gone up? Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.
Got tips for our editors? Want to anonymously dish some dirt on a competitor? Know something about a secret car? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.