Photo: GM

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: The Chevrolet Silverado Gets Its Very First Inline Four

America’s unending love for pickups is still happening despite the impending doom of higher gas prices, so General Motors has been working on some clever tricks to keep their pickups as efficient as possible. Automotive News writes:

General Motors is doubling the number of engines available in the redesigned 2019 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 pickups, including the addition of a new four-cylinder turbocharged engine that can run on two cylinders to increase fuel economy.

The 2.7-liter I-4 turbo engine is a major milestone for the company. It is the first modern-day four-cylinder engine in a full-size pickup and the industry’s first pickup capable of running on two cylinders.

The engine, GM believes, will help it lead in fuel efficiency against Ford’s aluminum-bodied F-150 with V-6 Ecoboost engines and a redesigned Ram 1500 with a mild hybrid system.

That trick 2.7-liter turbocharged inline four with cylinder deactivation tech is the first four-banger for the Chevrolet Silverado line, the Detroit Free Press notes. It will become the standard engine for some popular Silverado trims, including the LT and RST, and packs 310 horsepower and 348 lb-ft of torque.

GM has yet to release key stats related to the new four-cylinder’s fuel economy, payload and towing specifications just yet, but it’s lighter, more powerful and more fuel efficient than the existing base V6 used in the Silverado line. GM’s Global Director of Gasoline Engines Jeff Luke told Automotive News that it’s possible for such engines to eventually replace the usual V6 offerings in the line.

Larger engines weren’t left out of GM’s war on fuel economy (and Ford, and Ram), either. The 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V8s in GM’s latest pickups will be available with Dynamic Fuel Management, which can allow the truck to run on anything between one to all eight cylinders depending on how much power is needed, the Detroit Free Press adds. Chevrolet claims that this enables the engines to use less than eight cylinders 61 percent of the time in normal driving conditions.

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2nd Gear: Only Fancy Cars Deserve To Be Made In Italy

Oh, were you European-types thinking that your base-model Fiat Punto was a fine Italian thoroughbred worthy of parking alongside Ferraris, Lamborghinis and other upscale marques made on European’s fancy-boot? Live it up now, because that’s all about to change.

Excuse me while I raise a pinky finger before going further in on this story. Fiat Chrysler has determined that their mass-market offerings are no longer worthy of being made in Italy, reports Bloomberg:

The CEO is preparing to unveil on June 1 a sweeping transformation of production in Italy that will see the company abandon the manufacture of the budget Punto and Mito cars in favor of upscale models, according to people familiar with the plan. A historic plant in Turin and another near Naples will be retooled to produce new Maserati and Jeep SUVs, while Panda output will be moved to Poland, said the people, who asked not to be named because the project isn’t public.

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The company’s historic plants in Italy proper will pivot towards pumping out Alfa Romeos, Jeeps and Maseratis, while the budget-oriented Panda will be moved to Poland. The Punto and Mito models will be dropped in the move, which is also influenced by the need to drop diesel cars in favor of hybrids and electrics.

This move follows a similar one undertaken by FCA in America, wherein they dropped their smaller Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart sedans in favor of building more Jeep and Ram trucks in those factories’ space. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has said time and time again that the people want more Jeeps, and he’s going to give us just that—even in Europe.

3rd Gear: Nissan Wants A Better Deal In Renault Merger Talks

Let’s make a deal! Renault and Nissan have been an alliance forever, but they’re looking at combining forces even more—possibly in a merger. Those with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg that Nissan wants to have more of a say in certain things and retain some autonomy:

Nissan’s top managers believe they have the better engineering capabilities and want to lead crucial operations such as product development, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the deliberations are private. Chief Executive Officer Hiroto Saikawa said as recently as this week that he wants Nissan to maintain some autonomy while still reaping the benefits of working with Renault.

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Right now, the alliance is pretty lopsided. Renault isn’t as profitable or valuable, but owns about 43 percent of Nissan and can vote on Nissan’s corporate business. If merger terms can’t be agreed upon, Nissan could choose to boost its 15 percent stake in Renault to get voting rights on Renault’s matters, too.

But it’s complicated, because of course there’s drama about neither side wanting to sell out to the other, Bloomberg notes:

From Renault management’s point of view, the company invested in Nissan in 1999 and saved it from failure. The French company sells fewer vehicles worldwide and earns less, but at higher profit margins.

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Let’s just hope this goes much better than the last time there was a “merger of equals” (which really wasn’t).

4th Gear: Trump and CARB To Talk It Out

The ongoing battle between the California Air Resources Board and the Trump administration has been a source of dread for quite some time. Now the head of CARB, Mary Nichols, plans to meet with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration deputy administrator Heidi King and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt to discuss emissions regulations, reports Bloomberg:

The summit, planned for May 23, will be the first in-person meeting between the top officials of the three agencies that together set the fuel efficiency requirements of new cars and light trucks. Representatives of the agencies weren’t immediately available to comment.

Nichols, in an interview on sidelines of a symposium for the 50th anniversary of Air Resources Board, said she plans to meet separately with auto industry trade associations while in Washington.

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The situation is one we’re all too familiar with now: the feds want to relax emissions standards, while California wants to protect its ability to set its own stricter standards (and maybe not breathe in so much smog!). We’ll see how it goes!

5th Gear: Volkswagen Skips Paris

Audi, Porsche, Skoda and Seat are all set to attend the Paris Auto Show—but their corporate overlord’s namesake brand won’t, reports Reuters.

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Instead, Volkswagen may host other activities alongside the auto show in Paris, but they won’t be on the show floor itself. Part of that is to save costs—after all, they’re still digging themselves out of Dieselgate—but part of that is because auto shows aren’t the best bang for an automaker’s buck anymore. Reuters explains:

Many of the traditional industry gatherings have registered a drop in visitor numbers since the turn of this century.

Among the reasons for the decline is the emergence of technology as the main battleground for connected, autonomous cars, which has drawn exhibitors to competing events such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

This isn’t the first time a VW brand has skipped a major auto show, either. Volkswagen and Audi both scaled back their auto show presences this year in Frankfurt and Detroit, and Audi plans to skip the 2019 Detroit auto show entirely.

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Reverse: Add Lightness To Formula One

Neutral: Do Auto Shows Even Matter Anymore?

Getting to see, touch, smell and maybe lick new cars (if they’re not looking, that is—err, on second thought, let’s not recommend this) is always fun, but is there a still a place for auto shows in today’s connected world? When press releases and new product photos can be emailed whenever and fewer automakers decide to show up, this question gets tough.