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+++ ASTON MARTIN ’s new hypercar codenamed AM-RB 003 could be called be Valhalla, CEO Andy Palmer hinted. The hypercar is closely previewed in concept form at the Geneva auto show. The car slots below this year’s Valkyrie hypercar and above the Vanquish mid-engine supercar, which was also previewed as a concept in Geneva. The car is due in 2021 and will be the first to use a new V6 hybrid and turbocharged gasoline engine developed in-house by Aston Martin. “Valhalla is a name we have registered in our naming book”, Palmer told, without confirming the name. The production version is expected to cost more than €1.1 million. It will be limited to 500 units and will rival the McLaren Senna and Ferrari’s replacement for the LaFerrari hypercar. The car will have performance to “meet and surpass existing top-end hypercar rivals”, Aston Martin said. As with the Valkyrie, the hypercar was developed with Red Bull Advanced Technologies, which is a division of the UK-based Red Bull Formula 1 team. Palmer cited the work of Red Bull’s chief engineer, Adrian Newey, in influencing the design of the 003. “One of the things about working with Adrian is the F1 obsession with weight, beyond anything I’ve seen in the car industry. It’s changed our thinking”, he said. He cited the cockpit where in place of an infotainment screen is a holder where the driver can place their own smartphone. “In those kind of cars, you are trying to out to take weight out where you can. You have already got the smartphone in your pocket”, Palmer said. Both the AM-RB 003 and the 2 Valkyrie models are about setting the stage for the Vanquish mid-engine supercar. “It’s about creating credibility and authenticity in that mid-engine segment that we’ve never played in before”, Palmer told last year. Valkyrie elements that appear on the AM-RB 003 concept include the large air intake at the front and prominent rear diffuser, both included to give “outstanding” levels of downforce. New for the AM-RB 003 is an aerodynamic technology across the rear wing Aston Martin calls FlexFoil that borrows from aircraft engineering. This changes the car’s downforce without changing the physical angle of the wing, Aston Martin said, without initially going into detail. The result is a reduce in the drag from current active wings, it claimed. The new V-6 turbocharged hybrid engine is a change from the hybrid V12 unit in the Valkyrie. No performance figures were given for the new unit, which marks Aston Martin’s return to designing engines in-house. The new engine features a Nexcel sealed oil system which allows oil changes in under 90 seconds, Aston Martin said. The technology was used on Aston Martin’s track-only Vulcan hypercar, but this is the first on-road application, it said. Like the Valkyrie, the AM-RB 003 is built on a carbon-fiber chassis clad in bodywork made of the same material. The cabin is larger than the Valkyrie’s to increase the space and comfort in a vehicle that is expected to have a more general usage than the track-focused Valkyrie. The doors open upward and forward and include a piece of the roof for easier access. Inside the 2-seater, the cockpit has been designed for simplicity to better focus the attention of the driver. A 3D printer was used to make center console, which Aston says removes 50 % of the mass. The car uses an active suspension system that helps give the chassis “next-level precision, control and driver connection”, Aston Martin said. The automaker recruited arguably the UK’s 2 best test drivers, Chris Goodwin from McLaren and Matt Becker from Lotus, with the aim of making its mid-engine cars handle as well as established rivals from McLaren and Ferrari. +++ 

+++ AUDI will introduce 2 futuristic concept cars this year, at the Shanghai and Frankfurt motor shows respectively, one of which will provide a steer on the future of Audi design. Design boss Marc Lichte confirmed it: “We have concept cars such as the Q4 e-tron that are, more or less, production-ready, and then we have the opposite, cars that are 10 or 15 years ahead, like the Aicon. There will be one in Shanghai and another one in Frankfurt. Lichte explained that the E-tron GT and Q4 e-tron demonstrate the next generation of design, which will arrive in 3 years’ time. But the concept at Shanghai show in April will preview the next step beyond that. “In Shanghai, there will be a vision for a battery electric vehicle of 10 years’ time. But it will also show what the broader next step for design at Audi will be”. The concept will also demonstrate how interior will change in the future: “Today, we are talking about Level 3 autonomy, but in this car, there will be Level 4, and this will change the interior a lot. This car will give you an idea what an interior with or without a steering wheel can look like”. +++ 

+++ BENTLEY will position next year’s replacement for its Flying Spur sedan above the current model to create more differentiation to the AMG and Maybach versions of the Mercedes-Benz S class, CEO Adrian Hallmark said. “That market has boomed, but we haven’t”, Hallmark told. The current generation Flying Spur has lost out to Mercedes in particular, he said. “Mercedes with AMG and Maybach has done a good job at repositioning the S class to give a very sporty and very premium character that goes beyond the base offer”, Hallmark said. Hallmark said Bentley has been pushing Flying Spur prices higher through options and special editions but wants to create more of a buffer with the S class. “We want to get a lot more volume. We’ve positioned it so you get a lot more for your money”, he said. Hallmark said Bentley “created the segment” when it launched the first Flying Spur in 2005. The new Flying Spur suffered delays after Bentley was late in launching the new Continental GT coupe and convertible, Hallmark said. The Flying Spur will use the same Porsche developed MSB platform as the Continental GT. Getting Porsche’s sportier gearbox to work in a smooth enough way to satisfy Bentley customers was one reason for the delay. The new Flying Spur will be offered with a plug-in hybrid, Hallmark said. Bentley has said it will launch an electrified version of all its models by 2025. The first Bentley plug-in hybrid was the Bentayga, which has just gone on sale after a year’s delay. The biggest market for the Flying Spur is the United States, followed by China, continental Europe and then the UK, Hallmark said. The car is generally bought to be driven, rather to be chauffeured in or used as an ultraluxury taxi. “In the U.S. in particular the Flying Spur is a kind of daily cruiser”, he said. +++ 

+++ The next BMW M3 will be the first generation in the long history of the nameplate to have its power going to all 4 wheels, according to one BMW M executive. Carsten Pies, BMW M’s head of product planning confirmed the powertrain details of the upcoming 2020 M3, saying it’ll use an all-new twin-turbo 3.0-liter straight-6 engine paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission and an adapted version of the M5 xDrive all-wheel drive system. The new powertrain, which will debut in the already revealed X3 M and X4 M models, will be offered in 2 versions: the base 480 hp models and the 510 hp Competition ones. Unlike the X3 M and X4 M, the new M3 will get the same ‘Drift mode’ as found in the M5, meaning the driver will be able to switch off the front driveshafts for some good old-fashioned RWD hoonery. As with pretty much every recent generation of the M3, the new model will also get bespoke front and rear subframes, with additional chassis bracing also present. The 2020 M3 will use a revised version of the M5’s adaptive suspension. Offering an automatic transmission as standard is another first for the iconic M3, and one that might upset a number of purists out there. However, there’s a chance BMW might offer a 6-speed manual Pure version of the M3, sending power exclusively to the rear wheels. This will be a lighter variant aimed at driving enthusiasts, but with a detuned engine offering around 460 hp in order to protect the transmission’s internals. The new generation of the BMW M3 is scheduled for a public debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show later this year. +++ 

+++ The mid-engined, 8th generation CHEVROLET Corvette is the worst-kept secret in Detroit, but there is one piece of its puzzle that continues to escape me: its official introduction date. I expected to see it in the metal during the 2019 Detroit auto show, but it was allegedly delayed by an unspecified electrical problem. Its unveiling has been pushed back yet again. Chevrolet engineers still haven’t eliminated all of the electrical issues that originally delayed the model. They’re due to an all-new electrical architecture that other General Motors models will also use. The second, more serious issue is that high-performance variants of the car are too powerful for their own good. Engineers dropped a twin-turbocharged V8 engine tuned to deliver between 900 and 1,000 horsepower into a prototype, and watched in horror as it twisted the aluminum spaceframe, fracturing the glass hatch that covers the engine. Dialing down the power isn’t an option, so Chevrolet needs to make the 8th generation Corvette stronger. Designers and test drivers don’t agree on 1 key aspect of the car, but they couldn’t provide more information. It could be a visibility issue, some ergonomic shortcoming, or a cockpit design problem. Chevrolet is now planning to introduce the 8th generation Corvette during the Corvette Museum’s 25th anniversary celebrations in late August. Production will begin towards the end of 2019, and the first examples will reach showrooms in early 2020. Of course, none of this is official; Chevrolet hasn’t even acknowledged the car’s existence, let alone talked about issues reportedly plaguing it and the delays they’re apparently causing. +++ 

+++ FERRARI is working on an all-new hybrid V6 powertrain and, according to a new report, it could pump out as much as 733 hp. News of a hybrid V6 from Ferrari is nothing new, as the late Sergio Marchionne had already confirmed last year that the carmaker was indeed developing such a powertrain. However, details about what vehicles it will be fitted to remain murky. A new-age Dino supercar is one possible candidate. Rumors about such a model have been swirling for years but so far, Ferrari has yet to even hint at building such a model. If it gets green light, it will allegedly be offered in 2 guises. The entry-level model could use the new 2.9-liter V6 twin-turbo without any form of electrification, for an output of 620 hp and 600 Nm, while the hybrid would churn out 733 hp and up to 1.084 Nm. However, those figures may be a little ambitious, as the supposed entry-level supercar would be more more powerful than the recently unveiled, mid-range F8 Tributo. On the other hand, Ferrari is developing a new model to sit above the F8 Tributo, but this will allegedly be powered by a twin-turbo V8 hybrid and not a V6. One other possibility is that the hybrid V6 powertrain will premiere in the upcoming Purosangue SUV that’s expected early in the next decade. Whatever the case may be, it is clear that Ferrari is taking electrification very seriously and is planning a number of exceptionally fast hybrids. With the rest of its ICE engines having adopted forced induction, though, we are happy they will at least keep their venerable naturally aspirated V12 as well even if it’s electrified like in the LaFerrari hypercar. +++ 

+++ GENERAL MOTORS has announced plans to double its Cruise team, pushing to begin offering rides to the public by the end of the year. “We have plans to double in size by the end of this year”, Cruise spokesman Ray Wert said in a statement. The expansion will add 1,000 jobs, most of which will be engineers. The division will also triple its San Francisco office space to accommodate the additional staff. GM recently appointed veteran executive Dan Ammann to lead the Cruise team, replacing the startup’s founder, Kyle Vogt, amid reports that the company was struggling to keep on schedule in its push to launch late in 2019. +++ 

+++ The on-again, off-again Volkswagen GOLF R400 concept introduced at the 2014 Beijing auto show will remain at the prototype stage, the company has confirmed. One of its top officials argued there’s no demand for the car. “We did research and customers don’t want it. They want around 300 horsepower, and a price tag below €60,000. To move up to 400 horsepower, you lose 50 % of the sales volume, and increase the cost of ownership”, explained Volkswagen R boss Jost Capito in an interview. Billed as a mega hatch, the R400 was canceled at the last minute. We’ve seen it testing on road and track several times, first with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 400 horsepower, and later with a turbocharged, 2.5-liter 5-cylinder borrowed from the Audi RS 3 and tuned to deliver nearly 420 horses. It used 4Motion all-wheel drive and a dual-clutch automatic transmission in both configurations. 400 horsepower is too much in a hot hatch, but the next-generation Golf R is widely expected to exceed the 300-horsepower rating of the current, 7th-generation car. Volkswagen board member Jürgen Stackmann told that the model will be “great”, and he added it will join a growing line-up of R models that will include the recently-unveiled T-Roc R, plus 2 additional cars that haven’t been announced or unveiled yet. +++ 

+++ It is no secret that the successor to the LAMBORGHINI Aventador will be powered by a hybrid powertrain. It’s been widely assumed that the Italian car manufacturer would simply pair its naturally aspirated V12 engine with a small electric motor and a compact battery pack to ensure the new supercar meets fuel efficiency and emissions regulations. However, it may feature supercapacitors rather than traditional lithium/ion batteries. Lamborghini is allegedly readying a limited-run hypercar, codenamed LB48H, to preview the powertrain of the Aventador successor. This vehicle is supposed to use supercapacitors in order to avoid lugging around a heavy battery pack like virtually all other hybrid performance cars on the market. Not only are supercapictors smaller than batteries, but they can also discharge and recover energy at the same time. Lamborghini is working with the MIT chemistry department for their development. The Aventador’s successor may use the same supercapacitors as the LB48H, Lamborghini chief technical officer Maurizio Reggiani suggested. “We were the first to use a supercapacitor in Aventador for the starter battery, and we are convinced that for a super-sports car, this is one of the most suitable solutions”, Reggiani said. “We need to maintain the emotions generated by the naturally aspirated V12, and it’s clear that the performance gap needs to be filled with electrification. Torque boost can give a much more consistent power delivery, especially at low rpm. It results in much more usable performance, and so I expect our V12 to remain more or less like it is today, with increased power. I’m convinced that the V12 still has a long life, even in the era of hybridization”. In the Aventador SVJ, Lamborghini’s 6.5-liter V12 engine pumps out 770 hp. With an electric motor and supercapacitors, the supercar’s successor will easily deliver more than 800 hp. +++ 

+++ One could argue that MITSUBISHI has lost its mojo as it longer builds a single sports car or even a single ‘sporty’ model. That’s because the Japanese car manufacturer has changed its focus considerably. The managing director of Mitsubishi UK, Rob Lindley, said that SUVs are now their priority. “Mitsubishi’s focus is now SUVs, crossover, 4-wheeldrive, along with alternative fuel technology. Mitsubishi has moved around different brand positionings, whether it’s been Spacestar style vehicles or sports car derivatives like Evo, but it’s not had that clarity of focus”, Lindley said. Mitsubishi sits apart from many of its Japanese rivals which have been slowly re-introducing sports cars and remains defiant in its belief that SUVs are the way forward. This means that enthusiasts shouldn’t expect to see the carmaker follow in the footsteps of Toyota and Honda by re-entering the sports cars arena. “As a business that sells 1.2 million cars worldwide, in a global sense, it’s not a big business. If you try and be in all the different segments of the market and follow trends, like sports cars, it would be difficult to be economically viable”, Lindley explained. Instead of sports cars, the automaker is now using monikers like the Eclipse for use in crossovers. And, much to petrolheads’ dismay, it is also thought to be readying the Evo name for an all-electric crossover. +++ 

+++ NISSAN expects all-electric vehicles to reach price parity with diesel and petrol-powered passenger cars in the early years of the next decade. During the car manufacturer’s recent Nissan Futures seminar in Hong Kong, Nissan cited a recent study conducted by Morgan Stanley that claims EVs will reach price parity with ICE vehicles in 2024. According to Nissan, the gap between the 2 might evaporate even earlier than that. “They estimate in 2024, in Europe, so where you have European emission regulations, you’ll get a crossover where batteries will come down below $100 per kilowatt hour, and the price of NOx and CO2 and these things which is driving up the price of petrol and diesel engines will crossover”, Nissan’s global head of electric vehicles Nic Thomas told. “We’re actually more confident than that. We see in the products we’re developing for the early 2020s, we would expect to see that crossover. There are many different factors involved in that. What that means is that the product we might be able to launch in the early 2020s will be a beneficiary of that lower price”. Of course, this isn’t to say that the most affordable electric vehicle will be as cheap as the most affordable ICE vehicle. In fact, Thomas said that as the cost were kilowatt hours of electric vehicles falls, “demand for bigger batteries is going up”. While the price of battery production is expected to fall, the fact that batteries rely on raw natural materials like nickel and lithium means they are subject to market changes. According to J.P. Morgan, this means the price of raw materials will increase overtime relative to the cost of a battery pack. +++ 

+++ The PSA Group said its PEUGEOT brand will return to the North American market with compact and midsize vehicles, and a “creative and disruptive” business model. After years of speculation, PSA boss Carlos Tavares said late last month that Peugeot would be the brand to lead the group’s return to the United States, which the automaker left in the early 1990s. Under Tavares’s Push to Pass business plan, PSA has a 10-year timeframe to reenter the market, starting with operating short-term rentals under the Free2Move name and eventually selling cars by 2026. Peugeot CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato said he would detail the plan next year, but that early focus group testing had found that American buyers would be receptive to Peugeot models. “When we launched the 3008” compact crossover in early 2017, “the feedback we got, including from California, was, Wow, this car is super”, he said. Test groups appreciated Peugeot’s history, design and driving experience, he said. The 3008 has been a huge hit for Peugeot, with worldwide sales of more than 265,000 last year; a 17 % increase from 2017. Imparato said that Peugeot had models that were homologated for the U.S. market. PSA has designated the Opel engineering facility in Rüsselsheim, Germany, as the “center for excellence” for the federalization process. PSA bought Opel from General Motors in 2017. Tavares admitted he first thought that a French brand could not succeed in the United States (which would have pointed to Opel, as a German brand, spearheading PSA’s North American push) but that research had convinced him otherwise. “Our image in the U.S. is neutral to favorable”, he said, adding that Peugeot’s history in the country included victories at the Indianapolis 500 in 1913 and 1916. Both Tavares and Imparato emphasized that Peugeot and PSA would return to North America in a gradual way that minimized risk and upfront capital investment. “We want to come back in a scalable way and not waste billions on operations”, Imparato said. Tavares said PSA would not build any assembly plants before they could be supported by sales volumes. Vehicles will be imported from PSA factories in Europe “and/or” China, depending on the result of trade negotiations with the Trump administration. “I’m making a bet that both negotiations won’t end up with significant tariffs, and I’m assuming that at least one of them will be friendly for imported cars”, he said. “There won’t be any huge investment on production up front and praying that the business case is good”, he said. Nor will PSA invest heavily in building a dealer network, he said. “We won’t go conventional on our business model. We have a quite creative and disruptive way of distributing the cars”, he said, adding that it was “too soon” to reveal it. “Scalability is the key word”, Tavares said. “We’ll take our time, because it’s all about upside. Once we step in, we won’t step out”, he said. +++ 

+++ PORSCHE is apparently working on next-generation battery technology that will be available sometime next year. Porsche chief Oliver Blume confirmed that the next-generation batteries will increase per-cell capacity by more than 25 % from 37 amp-hours to 47 amp-hours. “This will permit us to achieve larger ranges, which we will gradually introduce into our products”, he added. The new technology presumably offers an improved energy-to-weight ratio alongside increased range for hybrids and pure battery-powered models. The performance marque expects half of its cars to be electrified by 2025. Highlighting the commitment, the next-generation Macan will be exclusively battery powered. +++ 

+++ TESLA has decided to revert to original Autopilot pricing after the recently announced discounts sparked backlash from existing owners. The company originally pressured buyers to pre-pay for both Full Self Driving and Enhanced Autopilot, warning that prices would increase by several thousand dollars if the features were enabled via software unlock after the original car purchase. Some buyers paid $8,000 for both technologies to avoid paying up to $11,000 later. The recent changes allow existing owners who opted out at initial purchase to buy both features for just $5,000, or roughly half of the alleged post-purchase cost that encouraged early adopters to dish out $8,000 in the spirit of ultimately saving a few thousand dollars. Adding the the “bait and switch” allegations, Full Self Driving is not yet available for existing owners or new buyers and has no firm launch date. Existing owners consequently overpaid for a technology they have not been able to benefit from. “In retrospect, lower price shouldn’t have been offered”, Musk admitted on Twitter after owners cried foul. “Was done so because some simply couldn’t afford it. Prices revert to normal”. The company also backpedaled on plans to close its stores, a move that was associated with across-the-board price cuts to the Model S and X. The only part of the announcement that appears to have stuck is the arrival of the $35,000 base Model 3. +++ 

+++ TOYOTA unveiled the new GR Supra at the North American International Auto Show earlier this year and it appears the company has big plans for the future. Supra chief engineer Tetsuya Tada said the “Supra needs to continue to evolve each year”. This likely means we can expect to see a handful of new variants in the future. While Tada was coy on specifics, he suggested there will eventually be an entry-level model that uses a BMW-sourced four-cylinder engine. The BMW Z4 sDrive30i features a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 258 hp and 400 Nm, and it’s possible this engine could find its way into the Supra. If it does, we can expect the coupe to accelerate from 0-100 km/h in approximately 5.2 seconds. While the engine is significantly less powerful than the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six, which produces 340 hp and 500 Nm of torque, Tada suggested the 4-cylinder model could be around 110 kg lighter. Speaking of lighter models, Tada hinted at a performance variant with more power and a sportier suspension. He suggested the car could follow in the footsteps of the 86 GRMN which was introduced in 2015 with a carbon fiber hood, plexiglass windows and a large rear wing. The model was also had a retuned suspension, a 45 kg weight reduction and an upgraded four-cylinder engine with 216 hp and 217 Nm. In other news, Tada suggested a manual transmission remains a possibility and said a targa variant would be more likely than a convertible. Speaking of the latter, Tata said “I’ve looked at it” but noted some customers aren’t fans of targas because of roof storage issues. Tata also hinted the interior could be updated in the future. While he didn’t go into details, the Supra borrows heavily from the BMW parts bin so Toyota might want to change that later down the road. +++ 

+++ This year will be one of most significant in VOLKSWAGEN ’s history, according to company bosses. Chief Operating Officer Ralf Brandstätter said a ‘New Volkswagen’ would be born. Not only will the production version of the new ID electric hatchback be launched at the Frankfurt show in September, but also the Mk8 Golf will be unveiled just a few weeks later. Volkswagen will also be launching the T-Cross in May this year and a 5-seat compact SUV for the US market. The company also predicts that 80 % of all its vehicles globally will be based on the MQB platform, which was first used in 2012. Volkswagen says it wants to be the world’s “number one brand in e-mobility” and expects to be building 1 million battery electric vehicles (BEVs) by 2025. The company claims that its new BEV production plant in Zwickau, Germany will ensure that the entire ID production process is CO2-neutral. It says the battery cells will be manufactured with “green electricity” and that Zwickau will also use this to manufacture the ID itself, while all ID models will be recycled at the end of their working lives. Zwickau, which has received a €1.2 billion investment, will have a capacity of 350,000 cars a year by 2021 and eventually produce 6 different models for the Volkswagen, Skoda and Audi brands. The entry-level ID will cost just under €30,000. A version with a range of 540 kilometres will also be offered, but Volkswagen hasn’t yet stated a price for this model. Pre-orders for the ID will begin on 8 May and shipments will start at the end of the year. It and the new Golf will be connected to Volkswagen’s new We network ecosystem, wherein all vehicles will be given a registered identity, allowing Volkswagen to have direct contact with individual drivers. These drivers will also have increasing access to live information such as traffic, weather and parking availability, as wireless software updates and contact with service departments. Company bosses say that over the next few years, the connected cars will have around a billion lines of software code; around 100 times more than a smartphone. Volkswagen also revealed that it expects to dramatically bring down its fleet CO2 emissions by the beginning of 2020, from around 125 g/km to around 95 g/km. It says it suffered from a shortage of petrol engines in 2018 as the shift away from diesel in Europe was more marked than expected. +++ 

+++ Volkswagen will cut up to 7,000 positions, aim to boost productivity and deliver 5.9 billion euros of annual savings at its core VW BRAND by 2023, in its latest attempt to raise profitability at its top-selling division. The plan comes a day after the German automaker warned it would cut jobs as it speeds up the rollout of electric cars, which are less complex to build and require fewer workers. Volkswagen has struggled to raise profitability at the VW brand for years. Last year, the brand’s operating margin fell to 3.8 %, lagging peers such as Peugeot which delivered a margin of 8.4 %. The VW brand is targeting a 6 % margin in 2022. Volkswagen has ruled out compulsory layoffs until 2025, but early retirement of staff working in administrative positions at the company’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, will help reduce the workforce by 5,000 to 7,000, it said. The new cost cutting drive is a continuation of Volkswagen’s 3 billion euros Zukunftspakt savings plan. So far, VW has realized around €2.4 billion of the planned €3 billion annual cost savings by 2020. The €5.9 billion target for 2023 comes on top of the 2020 target, the company said. At the same time, VW will create 2,000 new software jobs, as well as electronics positions in technical development, it said. The company plans to become the world’s biggest producer of electric cars by 2025, with the VW brand alone aiming to build more than 20 models on the group’s electric vehicles platform. The first electric car on the platform, the ID, will hit showrooms in 2020 and VW expects the launch edition to sell out, VW’s board member for sales Jürgen Stackmann said. VW declined to say how many cars would be produced for the launch edition. VW will start building the ID at a factory in Zwickau, Germany, which has maximum annual production capacity of 330,000 models. Zwickau will also build electric cars for Volkswagen’s Seat and Audi brands. After Zwickau, Volkswagen will roll out production of electric vehicles to seven other factories worldwide including two plants in China and a factory in Chattanooga, United States, VW said. +++

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