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This is the Morning Shift, our one-stop daily roundup of all the auto news that's actually important β€” 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: VW Declares More Than 8 Million Sold
Volkswagen said yesterday that something is going well with its beigekrieg. Its sales from January through November topped 8 million worldwide for the first time in history. At the same point in 2011, VW had sold 7.5 million cars, so this is equal to a 10.5 percent increase. A bit of the increase is due to the fact that VW now counts Porsche sales in its corporate totals. But VW is doing well all over the world, except for a few spots. The U.S. is growing, China is growing, so is Audi and Skoda. The problem spots are Europe, and the Seat brand. And, with economic woes worsening there, VW says it is preparing for "a very challenging year" in 2013.


2nd Gear: Infiniti, Brought to You By The Letter Q
As Matt told you last night, Nissan has decided bring back its alphanumeric system. Basically, you can ust forget all the Infiniti names that you know now, and put a Q in front of everything. It's confusing and it doesn't really follow the cars' sizes and engine displacements. But what the heck, this is the same company that changed its name from Datsun to Nissan back in the 1980s, and then spent $700 million overall to tell customers what it had done.

There are successful examples where car companies have changed car nomenclature β€” Audi comes to mind β€” and also times when you wonder why they bothered, as with Lincoln. It's always risky, especially when the letters and numbers you pick are seemingly random. I mean, how easy does BMW have it? Even the smallest car buff can figure out what their names mean. Maybe someone at Infiniti is paying homage to Quincy Jones, and since he just got named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, then it's fine.


3rd Gear: BMW i8 Spied Going For A Spin
World Car Fans has some spy photos of the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid super car going through winter driving tests. It says the BMW's upcoming plug-in hybrid lineup is supposed to make its debut some time next year, and there also will be an i3. The flagship will probably get a two-plus-two seating arrangement and will reportedly perform a 0-62 mph sprint in approximately 4.8 seconds. According to World Car Fans, BMW has already confirmed the concept car's diesel engine will be replaced by a 3-cylinder turbo gasoline engine, which will work in tandem with a hybrid system. This means it will probably be more powerful than originally planned, while at the same time remaining a fuel-efficient vehicle. The bad news: it's likely to cost nearly $200,000.


4th Gear: Too Many Chevy Malibus Mean Extra Time Off?
The Kansas City Business Journal reports that workers at General Motors' Fairfax, Kansas plant, which makes the Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse, are getting extra time off over the holidays. The plant was idled last week, and according to a United Auto Workers bulletin, it won't resume production until Jan 7. That's 20 days of down time, including a normal seven day holiday break. GM wouldn't say whether the move was due to rising inventories. But there was 164-day supply of the Malibu as of Dec. 1, compared with the 65-day supply most dealers like to have on hand around now. The Malibu was redesigned for 2013, and the paper says sales have dropped every month since the fresh model arrived in August.

GM, in an email statement, told the Business Journal, "We have strategically built Chevrolet Malibu stock levels based on scheduled downtime and a strengthening vehicle market. This idle time gives us an opportunity to conduct scheduled facility projects aimed at improving the plant's future competitiveness. Additionally, we are hosting select employees for training and carrying out standard maintenance work." According to the Business Journal, Malibu, which once GM's second-best selling vehicle, now has slipped to sixth. The GM Fairfax plant employs about 3,500 hourly and 315 salaried employees. It typically runs three shifts Monday through Friday.


5th Gear: The 2014 BMW Z4 Adds A Bimmerang And Not Much Else

With the exception of the Cayman/Boxster twins, traditional German sports cars tend to be overlooked. I don't think about the BMW Z4 that often even though I generally like it, in particular the sDrive28i fitted with the TwinPower Turbo 2.0-liter engine. More Β»

Reverse: Farewell To An American Hero
Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye died yesterday. He was the longest-sitting member of the U.S. Senate, played key roles in the Watergate and Iran-Contra investigations, had a voice that any broadcaster would have been proud of, and deserved to be called, "hero." He grew up wanting to be a surgeon, but that dream died in 1945. He was leading a charge on a machine gun nest in Italy's Po Valley. He was shot in the abdomen, but kept inching toward the machine gun and managed to throw two grenades before his right arm was shattered by a German grenade. Even then, he continued to direct his men. "By his gallant, aggressive tactics and by his indomitable leadership, Second Lieutenant Inouye enabled his platoon to advance through formidable resistance," his Medal of Honor citation said. [The Associated Press]


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, which car companies have managed to rename their vehicles without hitting bumps in the road? Which name changes do you think were flops? Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.


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