Friday, June 30, 2006

CARNIVAL OF CARS: A Drive Around the Auto Blog Block for Friday, June 30, 2006



Are they throwing snow balls in Hades yet? Surely they must be because The General's board of directors is apparently meeting as this is being written to consider a proposal to join forces with Renault/Nissan. Unbelievable.

Well, let's go see what else has happened around the auto blog block this week, shall we?

Oh yes, Marcus the Perfect Son and Morgan his Perfect Wife took me to Richmond last weekend for the IRL race and it was a great night, despite the constant threat of rain. The heavens held off - answered prayer, that! Hornish drove away from the field until my man Vitor Meira almost caught him at the end. Darn yellow flag!

Okay, as I was saying ...

Bulging profits are good. Bulging circulation is good. Bulging tires on a Three Series Bimmer aren't good. That's the problem Inside Line encountered with its long-term 330i. A 30-minute pit stop at Strokes Tire Pros did the trick but I wonder if it left a negative bulge in the editorial budget.

Tissues are supposed to be disposable. So are soda cans. Chevy Cobalts are not. Erin at The Driving Woman just can't past the feeling she got from the long-term Cobalt she drove this week:

"The driver seat creaks like a 50-year-old armchair. The sunroof has fallen out of its track and, until we visit the dealer, can't be closed (good thing it's the dry season here in California). The rear door seals are bad so there's a ton of wind noise from the back when you take it on the highway..."

There was more, but you get the drift.

It wasn't all bad news for the Bow Tie Boys in the Edmunds galaxy this week, however, as Karl on Cars was rather impressed with the 07 Avalanche: "It drives like a much smaller vehicle (something I've been praising about Toyota's and Honda's SUVs for years)."

Do you become cautious or suspicious and slow down when approaching an intersection with stop signs or any other official indicators? The folks who like the idea of "Living Streets" think you will, at least according to Interesting Thing of the Day.

Count me among the skeptics.

You may have to go see the 1976 cinema classic "Baby Blue Marine" to really grasp what he's saying, but Jack Yoest has seven rules for effective military recruiting. No, it really doesn't have much to do with cars, but he's got a shot of a real Hummer in it so we'll let it slide this time. Besides, he's right on with the seven rules.

Did you know OnStar has a 92 percent renewal rate? That's according to Car Buying Tips' Chuck Russell. Chuck also recommends in the strongest possible terms putting as much cash down on your next new car purchase as possible. And Chuck says check your credit every six months so you will know what interest rate you are likely to pay. I'll bet somebody out there will disagree with that last suggestion.

Then there's the Scuderi Group's Split Cycle Engine. They say they just got a bunch of patents for it in a lengthy list of big countries, including the states.

I'm feeling skeptical here ...

It's not too late for Ford buyers to take full advantage of the new federal tax credit for buying an alternative fuel vehicle. Don't Mess With Taxes says there is a penalty for success, however, noting that the clock is already ticking for Toyota. Why? Because "once a manufacturer sells 60,000 of its credit-eligible vehicles, a phase-out clock starts ticking. That means that popular hybrid models will likely be less tax beneficial."

Leave it the Washington politicians and bureaucrats to find a way to discourage the very thing they are trying to encourage.

If, like me, you couldn't make it north of the border to take in the Canadian Grand Prix, Carpundit was there with a camera and has some great shots. Speaking of F1, Brian at Racedriven.com is getting saddled up for the USGP. Oh, there's a highlight reel from last weekend's racing action, too.

A Lancia Lament from 9Development.

Must be real slow over at The Garage Blog because they're talkin' about borin' stuff. You know like the Top 10 European Cars in which to engage intimately with a special individual. How about somethin' really neat like the Top 10 Racin' Movies Ever Made About Dale.

I'm not sure what to say about this from Ask Patty. Can somebody give me a hand here, please?

Alex at Autoblog says they're getting "frisky" over in the engineering department at Nissan UK. They've got a special 350Z GT-S. Very fast. Very, very fast. I like it already.

Okay, that's it for this week. Let's go find out what the GM board decided to tell Carlos Ghosyn!

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Friday, June 23, 2006

CARNIVAL OF CARS: A Drive Around the Auto Blog Block for Friday, June 23, 2006


There are murmurs in Detroit this week about what the Big Three will do if President Bush won't go along with dmeands for more federal subsidies for the industry. But what about the products, you know, the cars? That's the question that opens this week's Carnival of Cars so why don't we head out on the cyber road, shall we!

BTW, before we get too far, my perfect son Marcus gave me tickets to the IRL's SunTrust Indy Challenge Presented by XM SAtellite Radio race at Richmond tomorrow night, but now the weather forecast is not looking good. Pray for sun and clear skies, please! And thanks!!

Oh, and one more thing: Iowahawk normally spins some of the world's funniest political satire, but something got into him recently and he has posted this wonderful meditation on the beauty and enduring historical significance of the 32 Ford. It's called "Vive Le Deuce" and it is well worth reading.

Okay, off we go ...

The Auto Prophet took a look at the new Chrysler Sebring and came away wondering if somebody hit the Chrysler design studio with an ugly stick.

Remember the old TV show "Route 66" and its automotive star, the Corvette? Jack Yoest does and he explains the connection with the new Disney movie, "Cars."

Interesting Thing of the Day has a look at Personal Flying Machines.

Corndog's Flex-Fuel Chevy wonders about the wisdom of the government subsidizing Amtrak passenger rail service at the same time it approves measures designed to make rail's chief competitor, the private passenger car, even cheaper and more efficient.

Debt Free has lots of important information needed to make a wise decision about whether to donate an old car to a charity.

Chuck at Car Buying Tips says you have to look beyond the numbers in order to really now if you are being offered a good deal for you or for the dealer. And Chuck explains trade-in allowances here.

Audi dominated the LeMans 24 Hour with its turbo diesel-powered R10 last week, so is it time for all race sanctioning bodies to start converting their series' to alternative fuels? Brian at Racedriven.com says yes.

Over at The Garage, GAry says it's "just unfreakin' believeable" that former F1 world champion and Indy 500 winner Jacque Villeneuve has recorded a single on Myspace.

Now, moving right along ....

MORE TO COME LATER TODAY

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

CARNIVAL OF CARS: A Drive Around the Auto Blog Block for Friday, June 16, 2006



Now this was an interesting week! Not least because George Soros - billionaire investor and financier of multiple forms of left-wing political activism - is dickering with Malcolm Bricklin over a $200 million investment in a joint venture to bring China's Chery vehicles to the U.S. Think of the cheesy advertising slogans made possible by this development if Soros does an Iaccoca and appears in Chery ads himself!

Anyway, let's head out and see what else we find in our weekly drive around the auto blogs, shall we?

A first-time entry this week from 9D, which has a shot of the fresh-air Scion C that Toyota should waste no time in offering. Wouldn't surprise me a bit to see such a C on the streets soon.

Chuck at Car Buying Tips has a graph on how to know when it's time to buy new tires. Mr. Lincoln makes the expected appearance in this one. Chuck also has a shot of the new Silverado, which looks rather cool in dark red.

You know that Denny Hamlin got his first NASCAR Nextel win last weekend at Pocono, but did you also know that he spent a lot of time on a virtual Pocono beforehand? Brian at Racedriven.com has the details. Looks like "seat-time" is about to get a whole new meaning!

Gary at The Garage has photos and commentary on the opening of the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame. Lots of fascinating stuff there, including a Frisbee Can-Am car (I wonder if it ever flew?), Scott Goodyear's mount in the closest-ever finish at Indy (with "Little Al" Unser) and much else.

And, moving right along ...

Peter DeLorenzo at Auto Extremist offers some thoughts on the emerging crisis in Auburn Hills and notes that:

"Chrysler has been living on borrowed time ever since Dieter Zetsche's departure to run the whole shebang back at headquarters in Germany. Up until that point, Chrysler was the 'darling' of the media, the Detroit-based automaker that loved to tout that it was smarter than their cross-town rivals - too smart to get caught up in the downward spiral that was paralyzing the fortunes of Ford and GM.

"And they loved to flaunt their smug swagger every chance they got, too, reveling in the fact that their 'That thing gotta Hemi?' campaign had become part of the country's lexicon and that their 300C was the poster child of why they were better than the folks down at 'The Tubes' and over in Dearborn. My, how things have changed."

Indeed they have. What will DCX do now that too many of those thangs with Hemis are sitting unsold on dealer lots? Firing some of the managers isn't likely to get at the real problems, according to DeLorenzo. Peter isn't optimistic that DCX will figure it out, either.

Over at Auto Muse, E.L. Eversman takes a look at a suit that has been filed on the Left Coast alleging that Drive Time has been giving an insurance company privilege info about customers in order to help sell insurance. Keep an eye on this one as it just might be the tip of an ugly iceberg.

Auto Spectator has Alfa's news release and a bunch of photos of the new Spyder.

Autoblog's newest contributor is Carnival of Cars contributor Alex Nunz and he's got the scoop on Peugeot's WMD for the Goodwood Festival. Congratulations, Alex!

Carpundit explains why the death of State Trooper Paul Barry was a scandal and how you can help his wife and seven kids, all under the age of 11, now that he is gone.

They've got a new way of looking at the Big Blue Oval at Cars! Cars! Cars!. Somehow, I doubt that Billy is gonna like this.

Did you know Honda makes a stretched version of the Civic? CARSCOOP has the details on this Japan-only product.

Consumers Hero says Rocketsports is adding veteran German driver Klaus Graf to its Jaguar Trans-Am team. Anybody else out there remember Klaus Ludwig?

Sunday is Father's Day and Don't Mess With Taxes has a delightful meditation on different kinds of dads. No, it's not about wheels, but it is a wonderful read nevertheless and you will be glad you did.

My Dad passed away a dozen years ago and I still miss him because one of the things he gave me was a love for cars and racing. He loved Indy, which was kind of unusual since he grew up in East Texas during the Depression and there wasn't a whole lot of racin' there in those days. From some of the stories he told of how his Dad reacted when he saw the side skuffs on the family's old Ford, I am sure Dad was doing his best to make up for the paucity of competition! Happy Father's Day.

Speaking of Dads and sons, Friday was my birthday and guess what my Marcus gave me - tickets to the Indy car race at Richmond next weekend! He is the perfect son!!

More on Dad's Day at GM's FYI Blog, including an interesting shot with a 55 Chevy Bel Air in the background. My Dad's first new car was a black-and-white 55 with the 265 V-8 and a three-speed overdrive tranny. We put nearly 250,000 miles on that wonderful car over the years. To this day, it remains my favorite.

More on Indy cars at Fast Machines, which takes a look at the emerging "middle class" of the IRL, including my favorite dark horse, Vitor Meira.

GM's Steven Harris lands another haymaker to Tom Friedman's glass jaw (i.e. the facts). The GM Fastlane post also links to a great Josh Hendrickson piece at Tech Central Station that points out a bunch of stuff The New York Times columnist somehow forgot to mention in his latest anti-General tirade.

Gear6 wonders about those continued reports of a return of the Z8.

And Jim Dollinger at General Watch says the clock is still ticking away for Rick Wagoner at you-know-where.

Grant's Auto Rants has the best thing I've seen anywhere on the world's cabs, starting with those Holmesian monuments produced by LT1 Vehicles in Coventry, which is now in the cab export business. Does your town have one yet?

Shouting Thomas at Harleys, Cars, Girls and Guitars says he will put on the suit and tie one more time. I hear ya, buddy!

There's a new Mini coming for 2007 and Jalopnik is on the story.

Dave Leggett of Just-Auto.com explains that diesels just aren't that big in Japan.

More GM travails at Left Lane News - this time it's a report about production plans, or the lack thereof, for the new Tahoe/Envoy.

Smart man, that David Wassman. He explains why it wasn't W, it wasn't the car companies and it wasn't Big Oil that "killed" the electric car. Go to MotorAlley to find out who was the real villain.

MyFordDreams2 sees reason for optimism for Lincoln in a Chicago business publication, while over at the opposite end of the automotive spectrum (to say nothing of being on the other side of the globe!), Paul Tan is looking at the new Proton Satria Neo.

No, Carver One is not a new steak knife. It's the world's first tilting three-wheeler, at least according to Serious Wheels. Why do people make these things????

You just think your Hemi puts all its power on the asphault. Straightline straightens you out on that one.

The Auto Prophet has a great Mazda spot from the other side of the Pond. See if you can figure out how she does it before watching the spot.

Joel at The Car Blog is just a little teed off with some of the media commentary on Ford's travails.

Is your vehicle "ideal," as in the AutoPacific ratings? The Driving Woman offers some observations and information about the winners and losers.

The Truth About Cars' Bryan Myrkle has some great memories of a long day spent on a cold garage floor trying to get a Jetta back together. Amazing what a little shut-eye can do for the ole mechanical grey matter!

If you can tear your eyeballs off the opening shot of the car wash, Joe Sherlock at The View Through the Windshield will tell you what he thought of Cars!.

Doesn't look like much is changing for 2007 with Honda's Element, at least according to the shots in The Car Connection.

And finally, Top Speed addresses the heartbreak of Driving Phobia.

That's it for this week's drive around the auto blog block folks. See you next week.

Don't forget!

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Can Ford's Fusion Compete with Accord, Camry?


Make no mistake about it - Ford’s future quite likely depends to a great extent upon the success or failure of the Fusion, Dearborn’s latest entry in the mid-size family car contest that Honda and Toyota have dominated for a decade. Can the Fusion beat the Japanese?

Well, let’s end the suspense on that question right off the bat. On the sales side, there is no contest. Ford sold just fewer than 30,000 Fusions during the first quarter of 2006, compared to nearly 77,000 Accords and almost 94,000 Camrys. Even Hyundai sold more of its reconfigured Sonata at nearly 43,000 for the quarter.

But the sales numbers don’t begin to tell the whole story here. The Camry and Accord have been the top dogs for so long; they have legions of repeat buyers. Yes, like Ford and Chevy used to have. By contrast, the Fusion is the new kid on the block, so lots of prospective buyers haven’t yet taken a look.

Here’s my take: The Fusion is very, very competitive and could be the new top dog with some refinement under the hood and improved visible assembly and finish quality. Two things could keep that from happening – lack of refinement under the hood and the need for more visible, tangible quality feel.

Exterior styling is crisp and attractive, especially in the black that Ford thinks best shows off the Fusion’s lines. The new Ford trademark front grille may not wear so well five years down the road, but there is a distinctly Euro element in the Fusion’s appearance that should help it.

Ride and handling are more responsive and communicative than one expects in a family sedan, but again it’s more of a European tautness than an Accord-like friskiness. The difference here is probably a product of the too weak powerplant under the hood. Mazda6 owners driving the Fusion will quickly recognize a familiar mount because the two share platforms.

The optional 3.0 liter 221 horsepower V-6 is adequate, especially coupled with Ford’s six-speed automatic transmission. But the 8.18 second 0-60 mph time for the Fusion pales in comparison to the Accord V-6’s sub-seven second time. The Camry V-6 is quicker as well.

The Fusion’s interior is impressively simple and soft for the most part, with a very European tone. But there are some kinks, including oddly located environmental controls and a turn signal stalk that looked like it had been misplaced.

Give the Fusion more power and tighten up the fit and finish. Keep the Euro looks and handling and the high-value pricing that put my loaded tester at $25,650. The Fusion can be a Ford home run, but it’s not guaranteed.









Thursday, June 08, 2006

CARNIVAL OF CARS: A Drive Around the Auto Blog Block for Friday, June 9, 2006


It was the week the world first learned of IED - no, not "Improvised Explosive Device" but "Intermittent Explosive Disorder." Better known as Road Rage. What a coincidence - the PC shrinks come up with a new label that makes Left Lane Bandits victims of automotive terrorism. You think one of our Carnival of Cars entries this week might have something to say about that? Let's find out, shall we?

Is there more to those "free gas" incentives from Ford and GM than meets the pocketbook? Karl on Cars thinks there may indeed be more- well, actually less - and it isn't the buyer getting the benefit.

Jack Yoest has some pretty tall claims about his previous employment and driving record.

Need some tips on buying car insurance. Chuck at Car Buying Tips has some links.

Ask Patty is "a safe place for women to get advice on car purchases, maintenance and other automotive-related topics."

"If I could, would you?" is a good question to remember next time you are in the market for a new vehicle, according to Debt-Free.

Shouting Thomas at Harleys, Cars, Girls and Guitars ran into T-Rex over Joissey. At least it's got a roll bar, "so it's not entirely a suicide machine," he says.

Toyota redesigned its RAV4 this year, so you know a new CR-V can't be far behind and sure enough Straight Line has some spy shots.

Karl on Cars just spent some time driving the 2006.5 Kia Optima and came away thinking Honda Accord: "There's a weightiness to the dials/switches and a richness to the textures and surfaces that some other car companies (cough-GM-cough) could learn from." Sounds like an impressive impression to me!

How can driving a Bimmer be akin to stepping into a quiet coffee shop or reading a great book? Inside Line has the answer. If it's a Bimmer, though, the book is probably "Modern Times" by Paul Johnson.

The Driving Woman sees a new trend in compact SUV powerplants.

Over at Strategies for Smart Car Buyers, the tax status of hybrids gets the once-over, including some interesting quarterly stats: "The Quarterly Report of Qualified Vehicles for the AMVC for the quarter ending March 31, 2006, shows that Toyota (which owns Lexus) sold 41,779 qualifying vehicles to retail dealers, and Ford (which owns Mercury) sold 6,192 qualifying vehicles to retail dealers."

The Garage guys went to the Toronto premiere of "Cars" and was relieved to find lots of security, which was a relief because it meant "no misguided open wheel racing fan is going to blow up the screening of the biggest oval racing flick this side of Days of Dunder." Speaking as a former Formula Ford racer and lifetime F1/Indy car fan, I resemble that!

Chuck says don't be scared of the l-word.

There is a special run of 20-only deep, deep blue Ferrari Scagletti 612s. Alex at NoonzWheels has the details on a Japan-only deal.

Starling Hunter at The Business of America is Business is shall we say a bit skeptical of the ethanol buzz these days.

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MORE TO COME!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

What if a Car Review is Too Harsh? Or Uses the V-Word?

Robert Farago of The Truth About Cars is having a little dispute with BMW over a Lexus review that was judged overly harsh and a Subaru review that observed a certain likeness in the Tribeca B9's grille and a woman's vagina.

BMW has opted to withdraw TTAC's access to BMW test cars. You can read the reaction among some automotive critics here.

Whatever one thinks of the propriety of comparing a vehicle's front end to a part of a woman's anatomy, the truth is the Tribeca's front end is strange looking, regardless how you choose to describe it. The first time I saw it, I was reminded of the Edsel's grille, which was also compared by folks in the industry if not in the 50s media to another female anatomical feature in the same region.

The fact BMW was willing to withdraw a reviewer's access to its test fleet because of an objection to a review as too harsh is more serious. It's not a First Amendment issue because the Constitution doesn't guarantee any of us in the car review business access to the manufacturers' test fleets.

But BMW's PR executives have created an entirely unnecessary credibility problem for themselves. Making access to test fleet vehicles dependent in some degree to the favorability of a reviewer's published comments suggests the company's PR types fear that without leverage of this kind somebody somewhere might say something negative about their products.

Not smart, not smart. Makes about as much sense as GM's decision last year to withdraw advertising from The Los Angeles Times to protest reviewer Dan Neil's comments about the Pontiac G6. All that decision accomplished was subjecting GM to a couple of weeks of withering criticism that invariably included analyses of the troubled giant's product deficiencies.

BMW is not GM, to be sure, but in an age in which the Internet puts everybody in contact with everybody in real time, there is no place for a defensive pr strategy that seeks to control or otherwise limit commentary about the product. It's an exercise in futility.

Especially when the critic involved is among the most talented writers in the automotive journalism galaxy and who is surely sufficiently resourceful to find alternative methods of accessing your firm's vehicles.




Friday, June 02, 2006

CARNIVAL OF CARS: A Drive Around the Auto Blog Block for Friday, June 2, 2006


Wow! What a week it's been, as The New York Times' Thomas Friedman compares GM to a crack dealer and GM Fastlane responds with a devastating critique. Plus, Carnival of Cars received a raft of submissions for today, so let's lay some cyber rubber, shall we?

Jack Yoest wisely uses a recent mishap involving the family SUV to teach his son - aka "the Dude" - a useful skill and the satisfaction that comes with being able to fix something. Way to go, Jack!

Rude Awakening might be an apt title for Richtofen's description at Blind Chick Racing of his attempt to buy a new pickup (tow truck for a race car, maybe?) and what he discovered about the reasons for the paucity of F-150s, Silverados and Tundras with V-8s and sticks. The Nanny State is everywhere.

Whither the benighted GTO? Thus wonders Chuck Russell at Car Buying Tips. No, this one, not this one.

A pox on the return of the Double Nickel, proclaims Steve Faber's Opportunityaplenty's Debt blog.

Corndog's goin' all arty on us over at Corndog's Flex-Fuel Chevy News. Got a neat full-color diagrahm of how enthanol is produced, plus a detailed explanation of each step. Come on, you know you were just dying to get your hands on such a diagrahm!

Corndog also has something to say about Hillary's recently unveilled new national energy policy. It involves bananas.

Auto-Future cheers the prospect of Infiniti entering the European market, but worries about the future of PSA.

The Garage wants to know when street racing becomes a crime. It's an important question up in Ontario because the politicians and gendarmes are moving to make racing on the streets a criminal offense. Or I should say offence since its Canada. Sounds aboot right.

The Taxman Cometh .... with good news, according to Don't Mess With Taxes. The IRS now says the Honda Civic Hybrid gets the federal tax credit. DMWT has the breakdown of the numbers.

NoonzWheels likes that a European Focus ST was seen recently in Mexico, but cautions that such sightings don't always mean the spotted vehicle is coming to this market.

Is that anything like a spotted owl?

Was that a hoot of a pun or what?

Pleeze, somebody ... anybody .... stop me.

Speaking of neat hardware available overseas, Alex at NoonzWheels has word that Mitsubishi just dropped a Raliart edition of its Colt micro into the Japanese market.

Great news just arrived! Thermal depolymerization is right around the corner!! Read all about it at Interesting Thing of the Day. Trust me, it does have something to do with autos.

Now, moving right along ....

Top Speed has a great spread of photos of the new Three Series Bimmer, plus some astute commentary.

Those contemplating organizing a car show for any reason should read Joe Sherlock's suggestions for how to do it right at The View Through the Windshield.

Do you suffer from Excessive Horsepower Disorder? There is no cure, but there is hope for sufferers. The Truth About Cars' Sajeev Mehta has everything you need to know.

Gotta buy used this time? The Driving Woman has a new list of Best Bets.

Joel at The Car Blog explains why people will spend $100,000 or more for wheels. Funny, I thought it was because they lasted longer ...

An I-5 I can see, but a V-5? Sure, it's been done in motorcycling, but in cars? Straightline says China is preparing to export a Chery with a V-5. I think they are a piston short of a full load.

Paul Tan reports that Hyundai Getz Cross. It's a "soft-roader."

Want to know the 100 highest quality cars in Europe? MyFordDreams has the list from the U.K.

David Wassman at Motor Alley says Nissan "Gets It," but do you know the single dumbest measure of effective automotive ad buying? He does and he'll tell you if you call him on the number in his post.

Anybody else remember I think it was one of the Granatelli brothers talking about his bone-stock-looking Chevy Caprice with the mega-mega horsepower twin turbo big block under the hood and how much fun it was blowing off Testarossas? I didn't think so, but Jalopnik has the beans on a guy who did the same sort of thing but to a 91 Cressida.

My buddy Dale from Hot Wheels Blog spent some time in a rental Malibu back home in Oklahoma and reports on his impressions of this reborn Chevy classic. Maybe it should have stayed on Memory Lane, right, Dale?

Hummer manager Nick Richards tells all about Rod Hall and the Baja 1000 at GM's FYI Blog. I don't "get" off-road racing, but Hall sure does.

Did I menton something at the outset about The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman's ill-informed column about GM and a scathing rejoinder by Bob Lutz? Actually, if you go to Fastlane blog, you will find the scathing rejoinder by GM's Steven Harris. It is well worth a careful read, as is Friedman's column. Maybe now people like Harris have a better understanding of what those on the Right have been saying about the mainstream media for a long time.

And finally, Peter DeLorenzo and the Auto Extremist crew look back over seven delightfully demented years.

Don't forget!

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