US economy

The Week in Business: Trouble for Tesla?


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced on Thursday that it was ramping up an investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assistance system, which uses cameras and other sensors to control vehicles with little input from drivers. The agency had been conducting a preliminary evaluation of the system but upgraded to an engineering analysis, looking into whether Autopilot fails to keep drivers’ attention on the road. The new analysis brings more intense scrutiny, covering 830,000 vehicles sold between 2014 and 2021 in the United States and involving all four Tesla models; it’s also a necessary step before a recall can be ordered. Tesla tells drivers to stay alert while using the system, but many experts worry that Autopilot and similar technology can lead drivers to mistakenly believe their vehicles are completely self-driving.

Fresh inflation data dashed any hopes that price increases had begun to moderate. The Consumer Price Index rose 1 percent from April to May, much faster than the rise from March to April, and monthly core inflation, which strips out volatile food and fuel prices, was 0.6 percent. Prices climbed 8.6 percent over the year through May, also an uncomfortably fast pace. The numbers make talk of “peak inflation” appear moot: It is increasingly clear the high prices may be enduring, economists say, a reality that has become exceedingly difficult for many Americans, particularly those in low-income households. An index that measures the price of food consumed at home rose 11.9 percent from a year earlier, the largest increase in over 40 years.

Wells Fargo is facing a criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in New York over whether its job interview practices violated federal laws. The New York Times reported in May that, according to current and former employees, the bank had been conducting fake interviews with minority and female candidates to appear to be diversifying its work force. In mid-2020, Wells Fargo adopted a “diverse slate” policy that requires at least half the candidates who interview for six-figure jobs to be members of a disadvantaged group. But some employees said the sham interviews had been going on long before then because of a similar unwritten policy, with candidates interviewing for jobs that had already been promised to others. A bank executive said she did not think the fake interviews were “a systematic issue.”

The Federal Reserve is set to announce new interest rate increases on Wednesday as it tries to cool inflation. The central bank will almost certainly add half a percentage point to the rates, as it did in May, which was the largest rate increase since 2000. In an interview this month, Lael Brainard, the Fed’s vice chair, said expectations for rate increases in June and July that would be double the typical quarter point were “reasonable.” Since investors know to brace themselves, markets may not react too sharply. But they’re still keeping an anxious eye on the Fed’s moves.

Amazon will appear before the National Labor Relations Board this week to present its objections to the Amazon Labor Union’s victory in a unionization vote at a Staten Island warehouse in April. Despite the retail giant’s determination to quash organizing at the warehouse, known as JFK8, workers there voted by a wide margin to form a union. Amazon filed a list of more than two dozen objections with the N.L.R.B.; they include allegations that the union “intentionally created hostile confrontations” by interrupting company-mandated meetings, which Amazon used to resist the union. Experts say it is rare for the N.L.R.B. to overturn an election result.

More than 19 million viewers and counting tuned in to the prime-time House Select Committee hearing on the Jan. 6 Capitol attacks on Thursday, the first of several that will take place in the coming weeks. The audience numbers, according to preliminary ratings figures from Nielsen, were comparable to those for events like a “Sunday Night Football” game or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. ABC, CBS and NBC aired the hearing as special reports, but Fox News, the most-watched cable news network, decided not to carry any of the hearing live (though Fox Business Network, which draws a much smaller audience, did). Instead, its star commentators played the hearing live in a split screen as they weighed in. “It’s deranged, and we’re not playing along,” Tucker Carlson said.

Target said it would take a profit hit to clear out inventory as shoppers’ habits shifted. Spirit Airlines delayed a shareholder vote on its merger with Frontier Airlines as JetBlue Airways tries to cut in with a rival bid. Howard Schultz, Starbucks’s interim chief executive, said he was considering ending a policy that allows noncustomers to use store bathrooms.



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