Marriott Says It Will Pay for Replacement Passports After Data Breach. Here’s Why That’s Likely Baloney.

As you have no doubt heard by now, Marriott disclosed a massive data breach that exposed up to 500 million customer records. Hackers accessed information in the company’s Starwood reservation system, which affected brands such as W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, and other properties in the Starwood portfolio, the company said. The intrusion apparently began in 2014, two years before Marriott acquired Starwood. This oversight in the M&A process calls to mind another recent, post-acquisition hacker-surprise: Yahoo, whose two mega-breaches remained undetected when the company sold to Verizon last year. Coincidentally, Marriott’s hack is the biggest suffered by a corporation, second only to those at Yahoo.

After news of the Marriott breach came out, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on the hotel chain to foot the bill and replace people’s passports which were potentially compromised as part of the breach. Marriott quickly promised to cover the cost for as many as 327 million people whose passport numbers may have been exposed. At a fee of $110 per passport, that would put Marriott on the hook to pay up to $36 billion—a price tag equivalent to the value of the entire company, per its market capitalization. A devastating payout.

Here’s the thing though: While seemingly noble, Marriott’s promise is a bunch of baloney. The company said it will follow through on reimbursement only in instances where it “determine[s] that fraud has taken place.” What this caveat conveniently excludes is that Marriott’s hack likely had little to do with fraud and everything to do with espionage. In other words, if you’re a victim, don’t expect remuneration.

As Reuters reported, investigators believe the perpetrators of this attack were Chinese spies. The breach used tools, tactics, and procedures that matched Beijing’s style. The intrusion is said to have begun shortly after a breach of the government’s Office of Personnel Management, which government officials have attributed to China. The Starwood database represents a massive trove of potential intelligence: information on who is staying where, when—a bonanza for building up profiles of targets and tracking people of interest.

Geng Shuang, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, issued a statement saying the country “opposes all forms of cyber attack,” per Reuters. He said the country would investigate the claims, if offered evidence. Meanwhile, Connie Kim, a Marriott spokesperson, said “we’ve got nothing to share” about the Chinese attribution claim.

The Marriott breach—which took place quietly over years, as spies prefer—does not appear to have been a cybercriminal score. That’s why the passport payment pledge is probably bunk; nevertheless, if you think you might have been affected, it won’t hurt to follow these steps to refresh your cybersecurity hygiene and better protect yourself.

A version of this article first appeared in Cyber Saturday, the weekend edition of Fortune’s tech newsletter Data Sheet. Sign up here.

U.S. accuses Huawei CFO of Iran sanctions cover-up

VANCOUVER/LONDON (Reuters) – Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s chief financial officer faces U.S. accusations that she covered up her company’s links to a firm that tried to sell equipment to Iran despite sanctions, a Canadian prosecutor said on Friday, arguing against giving her bail while she awaits extradition.

The case against Meng Wanzhou, who is also the daughter of the founder of Huawei, stems from a 2013 Reuters report here about the company’s close ties to Hong Kong-based Skycom Tech Co Ltd, which attempted to sell U.S. equipment to Iran despite U.S. and European Union bans, the prosecutor told a Vancouver court.

U.S. prosecutors argue that Meng was not truthful to banks who asked her about links between the two firms, the court heard on Friday. If extradited to the United States, Meng would face charges of conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions, the court heard, with a maximum sentence of 30 years for each charge.

Meng, 46, was arrested in Canada on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States. The arrest was on the same day that U.S. President Donald Trump met in Argentina with China’s Xi Jinping to look for ways to resolve an escalating trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

The news of her arrest has roiled stock markets and drawn condemnation from Chinese authorities, although Trump and his top economic advisers have downplayed its importance to trade talks after the two leaders agreed to a truce.

A spokesman for Huawei had no immediate comment on the case against Meng on Friday. The company has said it complies with all applicable export control and sanctions laws and other regulations.

Friday’s court hearing is intended to decide on whether Meng can post bail or if she is a flight risk and should be kept in detention.

The prosecutor opposed bail, arguing that Meng was a high flight risk with few ties to Vancouver and that her family’s wealth would mean than even a multi-million-dollar surety would not weigh heavily should she breach conditions.

Meng’s lawyer, David Martin, said her prominence made it unlikely she would breach any court orders.

“You can trust her,” he said. Fleeing “would humiliate and embarrass her father, whom she loves,” he argued.

Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested on an extradition warrant, appears at her B.C. Supreme Court bail hearing in a drawing in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Jane Wolsak

The United States has 60 days to make a formal extradition request, which a Canadian judge will weigh to determine whether the case against Meng is strong enough. Then it is up to Canada’s justice minister to decide whether to extradite her.

Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday that neither Canada nor the United States had provided China any evidence that Meng had broken any law in those two countries, and reiterated Beijing’s demand that she be released.

Chinese state media accused the United States of trying to “stifle” Huawei and curb its global expansion.


The U.S. case against Meng involves Skycom, which had an office in Tehran and which Huawei has described as one of its “major local partners” in Iran.

In January 2013, Reuters reported that Skycom, which tried to sell embargoed Hewlett-Packard computer equipment to Iran’s largest mobile-phone operator, had much closer ties to Huawei and Meng than previously known.

Slideshow (9 Images)

In 2007, a management company controlled by Huawei’s parent company held all of Skycom’s shares. At the time, Meng served as the management firm’s company secretary. Meng also served on Skycom’s board between February 2008 and April 2009, according to Skycom records filed with Hong Kong’s Companies Registry.

Huawei used Skycom’s Tehran office to provide mobile network equipment to several major telecommunications companies in Iran, people familiar with the company’s operations have said. Two of the sources said that technically Skycom was controlled by Iranians to comply with local law but that it effectively was run by Huawei.

Huawei and Skycom were “the same,” a former Huawei employee who worked in Iran said on Friday.

A Huawei spokesman told Reuters in 2013: “Huawei has established a trade compliance system which is in line with industry best practices and our business in Iran is in full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations including those of the U.N. We also require our partners, such as Skycom, to make the same commitments.”


The United States has been looking since at least 2016 into whether Huawei violated U.S. sanctions against Iran, Reuters reported in April.

The case against Meng revolves around her response to banks, who asked her about Huawei’s links to Skycom in the wake of the 2013 Reuters report. U.S. prosecutors argue that Meng fraudulently said there was no link, the court heard on Friday.

U.S. investigators believe the misrepresentations induced the banks to provide services to Huawei despite the fact they were operating in sanctioned countries, Canadian court documents released on Friday showed.

The hearing did not name any banks, but sources told Reuters this week that the probe centered on whether Huawei had used HSBC Holdings (HSBA.L) to conduct illegal transactions. HSBC is not under investigation.

U.S. intelligence agencies have also alleged that Huawei is linked to China’s government and its equipment could contain “backdoors” for use by government spies. No evidence has been produced publicly and the firm has repeatedly denied the claims.

The probe of Huawei is similar to one that threatened the survival of China’s ZTE Corp (0763.HK) (000063.SZ), which pleaded guilty in 2017 to violating U.S. laws that restrict the sale of American-made technology to Iran. ZTE paid a $892 million penalty.

Reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver and Steve Stecklow in London; Additional reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Karen Freifeld in New York, Ben Blanchard and Yilei Sun in Beijing, and Sijia Jiang in Hong Kong; Writing by Denny Thomas and Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman, Susan Thomas and Sonya Hepinstall

SoftBank's Vision Fund to hire China team, set up mainland office: sources

HONG KONG (Reuters) – The SoftBank-led Vision Fund is hiring an investment team to be based in China as the $100 billion investment giant expands in one of the world’s most vibrant tech markets, two people with direct knowledge of the move told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 20, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

The Vision Fund plans to open its first China office in Shanghai next year, followed by Beijing and Hong Kong. Altogether it hopes to hire about 20 people, said the people, who declined to be named as the information was confidential.

The Vision Fund raised more than $93 billion at its first close last May with investors including the sovereign wealth funds of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, Apple Inc and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd (Foxconn).

In a statement at the time, SoftBank said the fund was targeting a total of $100 billion within six months.

Earlier this year, the fund hired Eric Chen, who last worked as a Hong Kong-based managing director at private equity firm Silver Lake before setting up his own venture, to head its upcoming China team, the people added.

Chen joined SoftBank Investment Advisers, which oversees Vision Fund, as a partner in March and is based in San Francisco, according to his LinkedIn profile and confirmation from the people. He could not be reached for comment.

A SoftBank spokesman declined to comment.

Already this year the Vision Fund has moved to open offices in India, where it has spent $5 billion betting on the future of technology, and Saudi Arabia, home to its biggest backer – sovereign wealth fund PIF.

The openings come as the fund must manage its sprawling web of portfolio companies covering everything from shared working space to insurance and healthcare.

SoftBank is no stranger in China. Founder Masayoshi Son was an early backer of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group in 2000. Since 2013, SoftBank has invested over $13 billion in Chinese companies such as ride-hailing champion Didi Chuxing. The Vision Fund has made five investments in China, according to Refinitiv data.

Since its first close on May 17 last year, the Vision Fund has invested in truck-hailing company Man Bang Group, Ping An Healthcare and Technology Co, a one-stop healthcare platform backed by Ping An Insurance Group, and most recently Beijing Bytedance Technology Co, China’s largest media start-up managing news aggregator Toutiao and online short-video streaming app TikTok, the data showed.

Bytedance is valued at $75 billion in its latest fundraising, Reuters has reported.

The fund has also invested $500 million in the Chinese unit of U.S.-based shared working space provider WeWork Cos in July, as part of its support for WeWork’s global push.

Reporting by Kane Wu in Hong Kong, adiditonal reporting by Sam Nussey in Tokyo; Editing by Jennifer Hughes and Stephen Coates

New York Makes Uber and Lyft Pay a $17.22 an Hour Minimum Plus Expenses to Their Drivers

Uber, Lyft, Via, and Gett/Juno must pay on-demand drivers of their services a minimum of $17.22 an hour after expenses starting in mid-January 2019, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) announced Dec. 4. The commission claimed this will result in an average nearly $10,000 rise in earnings for 96% of drivers. About 80,000 people regularly drive for ride-sharing firms.

The commission set a formula that will result in a gross hourly rate of up to $28 an hour to cover the average per-mile expenses drivers incur so that a driver’s effective freelance wage should net out to $17.22 an hour. It also factors in trips that lead outside of New York City and lack a passenger on the return leg.

The formula gets calculated per trip, and involves a “utilization” factor, which measures how many times per hour a driver has a passenger. The TLC said its utilization factor is designed to provide incentives to not have as many idle drivers on the road, which in turn reduces congestion. The formula also adds a bonus for shared rides to make sure drivers who accept those trips aren’t shortchanged.

The TLC noted that wage matches the $15-an-hour minimum wage in New York City plus the extra costs incurred by freelancers in taxes and to compensate for contractors not receiving paid time off. A TLC study found that 85% of drivers currently don’t earn an effective $15-an-hour wage, with expenses factored in.

Drivers who make more keep the additional earnings, and the rules also require more detailed statements from operators about deductions and payments.

Lyft said in statement that “the TLC’s proposed pay rules will undermine competition by allowing certain companies to pay drivers lower wages, and disincentives drivers from giving rides to and from areas outside Manhattan.” The company said the formula will provide the opposite effect from that stated and intended by the TLC, and lead to more congestion as drivers prioritizing shorter trips and congregate in denser areas.

Uber also critiqued the rules in a statement, claiming that they would lead to “higher than necessary costs for riders” without addressing issues of congestion in Manhattan. The company’s public affairs director, Jason Post, said in the statement that the TLC rules ignore incentives and bonuses that keep a supply of drivers in less-served areas of the city.

The TLC also offered a boon to cab drivers, who have been struck hard by the entry of ride-hailing companies. Taxi fleet operators have been able to charge as much as $11 per shift for credit-card processing. The commission dropped that to $7, which equates to about $1,000 a year for the average fleet driver, based on TLC data.

A freeze on adding new vehicles for ride hailing implemented in August remains in place. That number is fixed at about 80,000 vehicles, and is tied to cars, rather than drivers.

Qualcomm says China comment will not revive NXP deal

(Reuters) – U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc (QCOM.O) said on Monday it was not looking to revive its abandoned $44 billion acquisition of Dutch peer NXP Semiconductors NV (NXPI.O), a day after the White House said China would reconsider clearing a deal if it was attempted again.

Qualcomm, the world’s biggest smartphone-chip maker, walked away from its agreement to buy NXP in July, after failing to secure Chinese regulatory approval. The planned deal was first agreed between the two companies in October 2016.

Qualcomm, headquartered in San Diego, California, and NXP, based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, needed China’s blessing for their deal because of their presence in that country.

After high-stakes talks on Saturday between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Argentina, the White House said in a statement that China was “open to approving the previously unapproved” deal for Qualcomm to acquire NXP “should it again be presented”.

But Qualcomm said there was no prospect for the acquisition to be revived.

“While we were grateful to learn of President Trump and President Xi’s comments about Qualcomm’s previously proposed acquisition of NXP, the deadline for that transaction has expired, which terminated the contemplated deal,” a Qualcomm representative said via email.

“Qualcomm considers the matter closed.”

NXP declined to comment.

On Monday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters that President Trump put the issue of the acquisition on the table in the talks with the Chinese president.

Kudlow added that the Chinese president’s openness to the deal was a sign of further cooperation on multiple issues, including corporate mergers. Xi’s reported comment could embolden some potential acquirers in the semiconductor space to explore transactions, corporate dealmakers said.

“Although that acquisition cannot be resuscitated, Xi’s comment reveals in plain sight that Chinese antitrust policy is inherently politicized,” said Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in a blog post.

FILE PHOTO: A sign on the Qualcomm campus is seen, as chip maker Broadcom Ltd announced an unsolicited bid to buy peer Qualcomm Inc for $103 billion, in San Diego, California, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Qualcomm shares closed up 1.5 percent at $59.14 in New York on Monday, while NXP shares ended up 2.75 percent at $85.67.

Qualcomm and NXP did not lobby for the Trump administration to bring up the abandoned deal in its meeting with Xi and other Chinese officials on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on Saturday, which was dominated by negotiations over trade tariffs, according to sources close to the companies.

The two companies were surprised to see that the terminated deal resurfaced as an issue, the sources added, requesting anonymity to discuss confidential deliberations. Qualcomm was given just an hour’s notice by the Trump administration about Xi’s comment on the NXP deal, and its inclusion in the White House statement, according to two of the sources.

The Trump administration had unsuccessfully lobbied the Chinese government earlier this year to give its blessing to the deal.

China’s foreign ministry declined to comment on Qualcomm during a regular media briefing on Monday.

Qualcomm had sought to purchase NXP because of its market position as a dominant supplier to the automotive market, as car makers add more chips to vehicles each year. Qualcomm is now focused on developing its own chips for the automotive market, according to one of the sources.

Qualcomm had to pay NXP a $2 billion fee to terminate the deal. To appease its shareholders, Qualcomm has also embarked on a $30 billion stock repurchase plan to return to them most of the money that would have been used for the NXP deal. It has spent more than $20 billion in share buybacks in the last 12 months. NXP has also announced its own $5 billion share buyback program.


Several deals by semiconductor companies were put on ice after the Qualcomm/NXP deal fell through, simply because they had a footprint in China and required regulatory approval there. Now, chip companies may be more optimistic about their regulatory chances in China.

One example could be Xilinx Inc (XLNX.O), a U.S. provider of chips used in communications network gear and consumer electronics that has a big presence in China. Xilinx is currently vying to acquire Israeli chip maker Mellanox Technologies Ltd (MLNX.O) after it decided to run an auction to sell itself, according to people familiar with the matter. A successful acquisition of Mellanox could prove an important test of China’s appetite to approve such deals. A representative for Xilinx declined to comment. Mellanox did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A more near-term test being watched by dealmakers is KLA-Tencor Corp (KLAC.O) pending acquisition of fellow semiconductor equipment maker, Israel’s Orbotech Ltd (ORBK.O). The $3.4 billion deal, announced in March, is still awaiting Chinese regulatory approval. KLA-Tencor’s CEO said on the company’s last earnings call that he expects the deal to close by year end.

Thus far, other high-profile mergers and acquisitions involving U.S. companies in other sectors have received Chinese approval. Last month, China approved United Technologies Corp’s (UTX.N) $30 billion purchase of aircraft parts maker Rockwell Collins Inc and Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) $71.3 billion deal to buy most of Twenty-First Century Fox’s (FOXA.O) entertainment assets.

Acquisitions of U.S. companies by Chinese companies, on the other hand, have been few and far between in the last year, after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a government panel that scrutinizes deals for potential national security risks, shot down more of these deals, such as Ant Financial’s plan to acquire U.S. money transfer company MoneyGram International Inc (MGI.O). U.S. lawmakers also passed reforms earlier this year that increased CFIUS’ scrutiny of deals.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker in New York and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Aditional reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York, Michael Martina in Beijing and Jeff Mason in Washington, D.C.; editing by Diane Craft

You Can't Build a Multi-Million Dollar Brand Without an Unbiased Focus Group. Here's Why

I recently spent a Saturday binge listening to podcasts on iTunes, and came across a presentation featuring Bethenny Frankel. She said, “everyone today has a brand,” in a humorous tone. With the host laughing uncontrollably, it became quite clear that there was a bit of truth to her joke. 

Although Frankel has created a multi-million dollar brand as the founder of Skinny Girl, it was more than a “stroke of luck.” Frankel was on a quest to fill a void in the market by creating low-calorie margarita’s that targeted women, without compromising taste. She strategically tapped into the right target market and focus group to launch one of the most successful spirit brands, with multiple, successful brand extensions.

Connecting your vision to the right audience, while filling a need or void in the market requires a strategic connection with your target market. However, hopeful and ambitious entrepreneurs, who would like to have the Bethenny Frankel level of success, skip the most important step in the process – creating focus group. 

I understand that you have a great idea and believe you are about to disrupt the market with your product or service, however, there is a high price to pay for high-performing leaders who ignore the importance of connecting with their ideal audience prior to launching. More importantly, it is important to see if all of the brand extensions and upsells connect with your target market as well. 

I participated in my first focus group in 2010 after experiencing a plateau in client acquisition in my private consultancy. The 11 person group, led by a leading brand expert, immediately provided valuable feedback about the top two reasons my team reached a level of stagnation that was difficult to forecast without their unbiased insight. We made immediate changes and sales doubled within a year. 

Before you debate it, here are three questions you must ask yourself as a founder before taking your product to market. 

Why a focus group?

Your friends, family and followers are not your customers. They cannot help you leverage profitable, sustainable opportunities and partnerships that will grow your company. 

A focus group is a collective of opinions from your ideal target market, who will provide valuable insights about your products and services, while allowing you to understand how the brand mission for your company connects with their needs. 

During the process of creating and building a multi-million dollar brand, you must create a focus group for all of your brand and product extensions to learn about necessity, utility and ways to create upsells that work.

When should you host a focus group?

At the moment you are ready to take your idea to market. Do not miss this step! It will become especially important if you decide to onboard investors, VC’s and/or co-founders. The feedback is invaluable to ensure that you will launch directly to your intended customer and avoid the “one size fits all” model of ambitious creatives and entrepreneurs. 

How can you create a focus group?

Remember, these are the unbiased opinions of your end-user. As much as you may want to ask your tribe on social media for their input, it will not work. It is time for you to partner with a qualitative research and marketing company to moderate your group and collect all of the data about your product/services.

Once you make the necessary improvements, the research group will reconnect with the prospects for further follow up. You want a focus group to provide feedback about the business model itself, pricing, utility, as well as the brand. Avoid generic questions such as, “would you buy this product?” Be very specific about the objective(s) of the incubator. 

Exclusive: U.S. senators ask White House to probe ZTE work in Venezuela

CARACAS (Reuters) – Two U.S. senators on Wednesday will ask the Trump administration to investigate whether ZTE Corp, the Chinese telecommunications company, violated U.S. sanctions by helping Venezuela set up a database that monitors the behavior of its citizens.

China’s ZTE Corp logo is seen at its offices in Caracas, Venezuela October 4, 2018. Picture taken October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello

In a letter, Senators Chris Van Hollen and Marco Rubio will ask the U.S. secretaries of state, treasury and commerce to determine whether ZTE worked with individuals cited by U.S. sanctions, used U.S. components unlawfully or helped Venezuela’s government flout democratic processes or human rights.

The letter, following a Reuters investigation of the database and an associated Venezuelan identity card program published Nov. 14, will go to the cabinet officials on Wednesday, according to aides to the two senators.

ZTE (000063.SZ), which this year paid $1 billion to the U.S. government in relation to sanctioned business in Iran and North Korea, didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment. President Nicolas Maduro, grappling with hyperinflation and an economy in freefall, has long argued that U.S. sanctions are part of an “economic war” by Washington to topple his leftist government.

Officials at the U.S. State, Commerce and Treasury departments didn’t respond to requests for comment early Wednesday.

Van Hollen, a Democrat, and Rubio, a Republican, have been vocal backers of previous U.S. measures against ZTE.

The company, of which a Chinese state firm is the largest shareholder, is accused by many Western officials of helping China export surveillance tactics and equipment to authoritarian governments around the world.

ZTE has increasingly worked with Venezuela’s government in various projects there, mostly in ventures with Compania Anonima Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela, or Cantv, the state telecommunications company.

Many senior Venezuelan officials, including Maduro and Cantv President Manuel Fernandez, have been sanctioned by Washington because of what successive U.S. administrations have deemed authoritative behavior and human rights violations by the government of the Andean country.

Neither Fernandez nor a Cantv spokeswoman responded to requests for comment.

In its investigation, Reuters found that ZTE helped Caracas build a database that can track citizens’ behavior through a national identity card. The ID, the “fatherland card,” can compile data including financial and medical histories, usage of social media, political affiliation and whether a person voted.

One area of concern for the senators is whether ZTE installed components made by Dell Technologies Inc (DVMT.N) in the database. One document reviewed by Reuters indicated that ZTE used storage units built by the U.S-based company in equipment it installed for Cantv.

In their letter Wednesday, the senators ask “whether ZTE violated U.S. export controls with respect to the installation of data storage units built by Dell.” A spokeswoman for Dell told Reuters it had no record of a sale for that purpose.

The senators also ask the U.S. administration to determine whether ZTE’s work in Venezuela breaks the terms of the $1 billion agreement it came to earlier this year with the Commerce Department related to previous sanctions violations.

Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld in Washington and Anne Marie Roantree in Hong Kong. Editing by Paulo Prada.

Range Rover's New Evoque Is Made to Conquer the Parking Lot

The Range Rover Evoque is a funny sort of car. The sort of off-roader that self-appointed car lovers love to dismiss as a cute ute that spends more time rolling through mall parking lots than cavorting through streams and over felled trees. Its maker, though, can handle the grumblings—Jaguar Land Rover has sold 772,000 Evoques since introducing the luxury compact SUV in 2010.

As it pushes for the million mark, it makes sense that JLR has upped the “utility” with those civilized, civilian customers in mind: The newly unveiled latest generation of the Evoque is built to conquer the mall parking lot.

Naturally, the 2020 Evoque comes stuffed with coddling goodies. The infotainment system supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can adjust the seats in 16 ways. The cabin “ionization” systems treats your nostrils like the royal groomer treats the queen’s corgis. The longer wheelbase means more room for your luggage and your knees, and the 48-volt “mild hybrid” system runs the car on electric power below 11 mph, saving fuel.

“ClearSight Ground View” pipes the feed from cameras in the grille and side-view mirrors to show the driver what they’d see if the hood were transparent.

Jaguar Land Rover

Of course, the baby of the everexpanding Range Rover lineup can handle itself when the going gets tough. Riding on optional 21-inch tires, it can handle nearly 2 feet of water, with ultrasonic sensors on the side-view mirrors monitoring the depth. JLR hasn’t announced pricing yet, but the outgoing Evoque starts at $41,800.

The coolest features, though, aren’t meant for taking the Evoque for a romp in some rural paradise. They’re for taking it through the parking lots America has paved over such places. The marquee bit is “ClearSight Ground View,” which pipes the feed from cameras in the grille and side-view mirrors to show (in the central touchscreen) the driver what they’d see if the hood were transparent. It’s the production version of the “transparent bonnet” concept Land Rover showed in 2014.

Back then, JLR pitched it as a handy tool for off-roading. Now the automaker is acknowledging a more likely use case: The press release says the feature will “help the driver maintain visibility when negotiating extreme terrains as well as high city curbs.” And that’s a good thing: If you’re paying more than $40,000 for a car, you don’t want to shred the fender on a concrete bumper block.

Thanks to a camera feed piped into the rearview mirror, you can find your way out of that spot no matter how many boxes you’ve piled into the trunk.

Jaguar Land Rover

When the shopping’s done and it’s time to escape, the “ClearSight Rear View Mirror” uses a camera on the back of the car to turn the rearview mirror into an HD feed of what’s happening back there. (GM pioneered this clever tech in the Cadillac CT6 and Chevy Bolt EV.) So no matter how many boxes you’ve piled up in the trunk, you can find your way out of the spot and home again, ready to rest up for the next adventure.

More Great WIRED Stories

What Tesla did for luxury cars, Rivian wants to do for pickups

PLYMOUTH, Mich. (Reuters) – Rivian Automotive plans to debut its all-electric pickup truck at the Los Angeles auto show on Monday, and its founder and chief executive exudes optimism about his desire to do for the U.S. auto industry’s most lucrative segment what Tesla did for luxury cars.

The R1T, the all-electric pickup by Rivian, an American electric-car company, is seen in this image released by Rivian in Plymouth, Michigan, U.S., on November 20, 2018. Courtesy Ben Moon/Rivian/Handout via REUTERS

Not everyone is so sanguine.

R.J. Scaringe, Rivian’s 35-year-old CEO, said he and his financial backers believe that demand for electric pickups is “massively underserved.”

Rivian intends to begin selling its R1T, the pickup it will debut in Los Angeles, in the fall of 2020.

That would not make Rivian the first to the U.S. market with an electric pickup. Cincinnati-based truck maker Workhorse Group Inc is developing an electric pickup that is slated for production in 2019.

But while Workhorse is aiming to sell its pickup to utilities and municipalities for use on limited routes, Rivian said its pickup is aimed at consumers. Rivian’s truck will have a range of up to about 400 miles, which would be the longest among its three different battery packs.

Scaringe sees the U.S. pickup market, which accounts for the bulk of global profits for the Detroit Three automakers, as ripe for change.

“What we’re talking about here are cars that don’t drive particularly well, don’t handle particularly well, have fuel economy that’s really quite bad,” he told reporters at Rivian’s headquarters in Plymouth, Michigan, before the L.A. show.

Rivian has not disclosed prices for its truck, but Scaringe said it will start at just under $70,000 before federal tax credits for the entry-level model. A stripped-down version with the most powerful battery pack will sell for less than $90,000. Current large, luxury pickup trucks can sell at that price or higher.


Many auto industry officials and analysts are skeptical that electric pickups can sell in large numbers unless battery technology vastly improves in driving range and cost.

Buzz about electric pickups vastly outweighs their near-term significance to the U.S. market, because making a pickup electric can compromise other key attributes of such vehicles, such as load-hauling capability.

Rivian’s truck will offer a payload of 1,760 pounds and a towing capacity of 11,000 pounds – attributes more comparable to the Detroit Three’s mid-sized trucks than to best-selling large trucks such as the Ford F-150 or GMC Sierra. That will put Rivian’s truck in a tough place as it lacks the power and payload of the larger models, but will cost more than the mid-sized trucks.

“A hybrid makes more sense,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at Auto Forecast Solutions.

The Detroit Three automakers have not jumped into the market for electric pickups. Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, told investors in August that an electric pickup is “probably my personal favorite for the next product” from the company, though he has spoken only in general about a potential launch, saying that it would happen “right after” Tesla’s Model Y, which the company has targeted to start production in 2020.

Ford Motor Co has promised a hybrid F-150 pickup by 2020 and hinted at a fully electric model some day. General Motors Co’s CEO, Mary Barra, has said the U.S. automaker has given a “tiny bit” of thought to developing all-electric pickups.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV has a hybrid electric-gasoline version of its Ram pickup. Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp said it hopes to make electric options on all models available by 2025.

For the most part, the U.S. pickup market leaders are doubling down on petroleum-fueled models such as Fiat Chrysler’s new Jeep Gladiator mid-sized pickup that will be officially unveiled in Los Angeles. The Gladiator is aimed at consumers who want a “lifestyle” truck that has car-like amenities in the cab, and can haul recreational “toys” such as jet-skis, campers or dirt bikes.

Rivian, which last year bought the former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois, for $16 million to build its truck, will also likely face financial challenges and the need to raise more money as it moves into production, if Tesla’s experience is any guide. Tesla has raised billions of dollars in financing — including secondary share offerings and bond sales — as it has struggled to ramp up production.

Rivian’s financial backers include Saudi auto distributor Abdul Latif Jameel Co (ALJ), Sumitomo Corp of America and Standard Chartered Bank [STANB.UL]. ALJ has agreed to provide almost $500 million in funding, Sumitomo invested an undisclosed amount, and Standard Chartered provided debt financing of $200 million.

Like the new Jeep Gladiator, Rivian is targeting recreational customers.

Autotrader analyst Michelle Krebs said those types of customers tend to prefer the mid-sized trucks like the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado, but they are much less brand loyal than owners of the full-sized trucks.

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But Scaringe said that Rivian sees an advantage in its truck’s foundation, a “skateboard” that packages the vehicle drive units, battery pack, suspension system, brakes and cooling system all below wheel height to allow for more storage space and greater stability due to a lower center of gravity.

The skateboard could be used for other models including an SUV. Scaringe said Rivian’s goal is to reach about 50,000 sales a year by 2025. Rivian also plans to sell the skateboard to other automakers, he said.

And Scaringe said Rivian has another business strategy: Most of its revenue will not come from selling vehicles, but eventually selling experiences like renting vehicles for a weekend trip.

Reporting by Ben Klayman; Additional reporting by Joseph White in Detroit; Editing by Leslie Adler

How much for that app? U.S. top court hears Apple antitrust dispute

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – When iPhone users want to edit blemishes out of their selfies, identify stars and constellations or simply join the latest video game craze, they turn to Apple Inc’s App Store, where any software application they buy also includes a 30 percent cut for Apple.

FILE PHOTO: Customers walk past an Apple logo inside of an Apple store at Grand Central Station in New York, U.S., August 1, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

That commission is a key issue in a closely watched antitrust case that will reach the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. The nine justices will hear arguments in Apple’s bid to escape damages in a lawsuit accusing it of breaking federal antitrust laws by monopolizing the market for iPhone apps and causing consumers to pay more than they should.

The justices will ultimately decide a broader question: Can consumers even sue for damages in an antitrust case like this one?

Apple, which is appealing a lower court decision that revived the proposed consumer class-action lawsuit, says no, citing a decades-old Supreme Court precedent. The Cupertino, California-based technology company said that siding with the iPhone users who filed the lawsuit would threaten the burgeoning field of e-commerce, which generates hundreds of billions of dollars annually in U.S. retail sales.

The plaintiffs, as well as antitrust watchdog groups, said that if the justices close courthouse doors to those who buy consumer products, monopolistic conduct could expand unchecked.

“A lot of tech platforms will start making the argument that consumers don’t have standing to bring antitrust suits against us,” said Sandeep Vaheesan, legal director for the Open Markets Institute, a Washington-based antitrust advocacy group.

“Uber could say, we’re just providing communication services to ride-sharing drivers,” Vaheesan said, referring to the popular ride-sharing company. “If there’s an antitrust issue, the drivers can bring a claim but passengers do not have standing.”

The iPhone users accused Apple of violating federal antitrust law by monopolizing the sale of paid apps, leading to inflated prices compared to if apps were available from other sources.

Though developers set the prices of their apps, Apple collects the payments from iPhone users, keeping a 30 percent commission on each purchase. One area of dispute in the case is whether app developers recoup the cost of that commission by passing it on to consumers. Developers earned more than $26 billion in 2017, a 30 percent increase over 2016, according to Apple.

The company sought to have the antitrust claims dismissed, saying the plaintiffs lacked the required legal standing to bring the lawsuit.

Apple has seized upon a 1977 Supreme Court ruling that limited damages for anti-competitive conduct to those directly overcharged instead of indirect victims who paid an overcharge passed on by others. Part of the concern, the court said in that case, was to free judges from having to make complex calculations of damages.

Apple said it is acting only as the agent for app developers who sell the apps to consumers through the App Store.

The company said allowing the lawsuit to proceed would be dangerous for the e-commerce industry, which increasingly relies on agent-based sales models. Apple cited companies like ticket site StubHub, Amazon’s Marketplace and eBay.

Lawsuits against companies like these would multiply “and lead to the quagmire this court sought to avoid,” Apple told the justices in a legal brief.

E-commerce reached $452 billion in U.S. retail sales in 2017, according to U.S. government estimates.

Apple is supported by President Donald Trump’s administration. The plaintiffs are backed by the attorneys general of 30 states including California, Texas, Florida and New York.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce business group, backing Apple, said in a brief to the justices, “The increased risk and cost of litigation will chill innovation, discourage commerce, and hurt developers, retailers and consumers alike.”

The plaintiffs and some anti-monopoly groups disagree. They said that app developers would be unlikely to sue because they would not want to bite the hand that feeds them, leaving no one to challenge anti-competitive conduct.

Developers “cannot risk the possibility of Apple removing them from the App Store if they bring suit,” the American Antitrust Institute advocacy group said in a brief.

Apple is “trying to make it harder for injured parties to assert their rights under federal antitrust law,” said Mark Rifkin, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

The claims against Apple date to 2011 when several iPhone buyers including lead plaintiff Robert Pepper of Chicago filed a class action lawsuit against Apple in federal court in Oakland, California. A judge initially threw out the suit, ruling that the consumers were not direct purchasers because the higher fees they paid were passed on to them by the developers.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year revived the lawsuit, deciding that Apple was a distributor that sold iPhone apps directly to consumers.

Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham