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1st Gear: Watch Out! Your BMW X5 Could Be Tough To Steer
USA Today reports that BMW is recalling about 35,000 X5s in the United States and Canada because of a defect that could cause a driver to lose power steering. The recall covers the recall covers 2009 through 2012 X5 xDrive 35ds, a model that comes with a diesel engine and all-wheel drive. According to the recall notice, "a bolt for the engine drive belt pulley was manufactured incorrectly and may become loose. If the bolt backs out completely or breaks, the customer will experience a loss of power steering assist." BMW says the alternator warning light also will go on. The X5 would still be drivable, but it would be really hard to steer, theoretically meaning that you could crash into a fireworks stand and experience... fiery death. BMW plans to notify drivers next month to take their vehicles in for repairs.

2nd Gear: Unions Suffer A Blow In Michigan
I took a look for Forbes at the likelihood that Michigan will become a Right to Work state, most likely before the end of next week. Right to Work laws prohibit employees from being forced to join unions or pay union dues if their workplace is organized. On Thursday, the Michigan House and Senate passed Right to Work bills, only hours after Gov. Rick Snyder finally came out in support of the idea, after saying it was not on his agenda. The two bills still have to be reconciled, but Snyder says he'll sign them. It's hard to overstate the historic significance of this situation. Michigan is the birthplace of the United Auto Workers union, home to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and there are unions representing everyone from university professors to Chrysler engineers.


So, how were lawmakers able to find support for the bills? For one thing, Republicans control both houses as well as the governor's chair. For another, Michigan lost 500,000 jobs in the recession, many of them union jobs, so the natural opposition to the bills has winnowed. Also, unions lost a Hail Mary effort in the November election to win approval for a constitutional amendment that would have banned Right to Work laws. It's going to be a big change for the state where workplaces have been closed shops, and you had to join or pay any way. Snyder says unions will have to prove to workers that they're needed, which means we're back to the 1930s all over again.

3rd Gear: Volkswagen Eco Up! Goes On Sale In Europe
Edmunds says Volkswagen has started selling the Eco Up! in Europe. It runs on natural gas, biomethane or gasoline, and has three fuel tanks, one for each. Although a VW spokesman says Eco Up! is not headed for the U.S., Edmunds thinks a case can be made for selling some of VW's natural gas vehicles in America. The VW lineup has six models that can run on alternative fuels, and there's going to be an Eco version of the new Golf. The Eco Up! starts at the U.S. equivalent of $16,915. It runs on a 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine that has been modified to run on natural gas. It gets a top speed of 104 mph, with 67 horsepower.

4th Gear: Fight Club! Chrysler Goes After VW Owners
Meanwhile, the European dog fight between Fiat and VW has spilled over to the United States. The Wall Street Journal (sub. required) reports that Chrysler is offering $1,000 cash back to VW owners who come in to buy a Chrysler. It's hard to think at first glance who that might be, since the feel of a VW is a lot different than a car made by the folks from Auburn Hills. According to the Journal, which followed up on an Automotive News report, you don't even have to turn in a VW for a Chrysler at the time of purchase. You just have to show that you owned one within the past 30 days. Chrysler said it periodically puts on deals targeting owners of specific companies' vehicles. It recently made a similar offer on Toyota sport utilities and pickups. The carmaker thinks the Dodge Dart might be a perfect fit for VW owners, and it has plenty of Darts on hand to woo them with.

5th Gear: Aston Martin Partially Sold To Investindustrial
Remember when those spokespersons for Aston Martin said it wasn't for sale? Yeah, it was. European firm Investindustrial has joined forces with Kuwait firm InvestmentDar, spending about $240 million to get a 37.5% stake in the company. You might remember Investindustrial as the firm that bought Ducati and then sold it to Audi. Reuters reports the move prevented the company from falling into the hands of Indian truck-maker Mahindra and thus creating yet another reverse-A Passage To India situation.

There's no word on the expected tie-up with Mercedes AMG.

Reverse: A Date That Will Live In Infamy
On this day in 1941, all hell broke lose at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Some 360 Japanese war planes swooped in on a Sunday morning and bombed the U.S. naval base. The losses for the American side were staggering. Five of eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. A total of 2,400 Americans were killed and 1,200 were wounded. Japan lost 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men. The United States declared war on Japan, and Germany declared war on the U.S., too. By early 1942, the American war effort was cranking up, turning Detroit into the arsenal of democracy. [History]


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Today, what do you think about the anti-union effort in Michigan? Does it surprise you, and do you think labor can ever have the same influence it once had? Remember there's no right answer or wrong answer. It's Neutral.

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