Axios Closer

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ğŸ”Ž Another day, another self-driving car company under investigation.

Today's newsletter is 698 words, a 2½-minute read.

🔔 The dashboard: The S&P 500 closed up 0.5%.

  • Biggest gainer? Insulet (+7.0%), the medical device company, pared losses from last week after concerns arose from investors over competition for the company's insulin pumps.
  • Biggest decliner? Paramount Global (-5.2%), on a report today from CNBC's David Faber that Sony may be "rethinking" a joint bid with Apollo for the company.

1 big thing: Mercedes rolls tide

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge, Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Mercedes-Benz earlier this year brought college football coaching legend Nick Saban to talk to workers at its auto manufacturing campus in Alabama about leadership and team performance.

Why it matters: The UAW had announced a bid to unionize the plants there over a month before Saban's talk.

The big picture: Saban — who recently retired from coaching and joined ESPN as a commentator — is revered in Alabama for leading the Crimson Tide to seven national championships.

Behind the scenes: "They don't stop the line for hardly anything, but they shut the line down and they had a meeting with Nick Saban in there to talk to us about teamwork and the tactics and methods he used as a football coach," Kay Finklea, a quality inspector at the site and a member of the UAW's voluntary organizing committee in Tuscaloosa, tells Axios.

What they're saying: Taking advantage of the fact that workers are a "captive audience" is among the standard tactics that companies use to deliver anti-union messages during unionization campaigns, says Mike Podhorzer, a former political director of the AFL-CIO.

  • "In a big, high-profile organizing campaign like this on both sides there's always some jockeying or theatrics," Sharon Block, executive director of the Center for Labor and a Just Economy at Harvard Law School, tells Axios.

The German automaker says it supports the workers' right to vote.

  • It confirmed Saban's late February visit, but said its Alabama operation has a long-standing relationship with the former coach and that he's visited the plant "numerous times ... to offer his insights on leadership and team performance."

The big picture: The UAW is hoping to turn the Mercedes-Benz Tuscaloosa campus into the country's second unionized non-Detroit Three plant.

What's next: The NLRB will announce the results of the vote on Friday.

Go deeper

2. Charted: Meme resurgence, Day 2

A line chart that tracks the daily change in share price for GameStop, AMC, Trump Media, and Reddit from April 15 to May 15, 2024. GameStop's share price increased +392%, AMC's +179%, Trump Media's +101%, and Reddit's +56%.
Data: Yahoo Finance; Chart: Axios VIsuals

The meme stock resurgence continued through a second day.

The intrigue: One beneficiary, AMC Entertainment, said it had reaped about $250 million from a previously announced equity offering completed yesterday. (Most of that will go toward paying down debt.)

  • The company sold 72.5 million shares for an average of $3.45 in a sale it launched March 28.
  • Its stock closed today at $6.85, prompting at least one analyst to suggest it should consider a follow-on offering.

What we're watching: How long meme mania can last this time.

3. What's happening

🔨 Foot traffic and average purchase size fell at Home Depot. (Yahoo Finance)

☁️ Amazon Web Services CEO Adam Selipsky is stepping down. (Axios)

ğŸ¦ž At least 99 Red Lobsters are closing as the chain tries to survive bankruptcy. (CNBC)

4. Waymo draws federal probe

A Waymo autonomous self-driving Jaguar drives along Venice Beach on March 14 in Los Angeles. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Google is hoping there aren't many searches this week for "federal investigations into crashes involving autonomous vehicles."

  • Self-driving car firm Waymo, an Alphabet division, is facing one from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Office of Defects Investigation (ODI)

Between the lines: Investigators flagged 22 incidents with Waymo's self-driving cars where it was "the sole vehicle operated during a collision" or it "exhibited driving behavior that potentially violated traffic safety laws."

  • Reports include collisions with "stationary and semi-stationary objects" and instances in which the system appeared to disobey traffic safety control devices, ODI said.

The big picture: The promising but still nascent sector is under scrutiny as regulators examine whether the cars are fit for the road.

Go deeper

5. ğŸŽ¢ Triple-Launch Strata... notgonnadoit

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A new roller coaster billed as "the World's Tallest & Fastest Triple-Launch Strata Coaster" has been temporarily shut down a week after it opened at an amusement park in Ohio.

State of play: Cedar Point said on Facebook that it is indefinitely closing Top Thrill 2 to complete "a mechanical modification to the ride's vehicles."

  • The ride includes two 420-foot-high crests and a top speed of 120 mph.

Zoom in: "Early speculation has centered on a 'shimmy' or vibration that occurred on the trains during early runs of the ride," Cleveland.com reported.

💭 Nathan's thought bubble: This will not help convince me to make my roller coaster debut.

6. What they're saying

"China will take resolute measures to defend its rights and interests."
— China's Ministry of Commerce in response to President Biden's increased tariffs, including a 100% duty on Chinese EVs.

Today's newsletter was edited by Pete Gannon and copy edited by Sheryl Miller.

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