By on March 27, 2014

2007 Chevrolet HHR 2LT Special Edition

The latest development in the GM ignition recall fiasc

Automotive News reports Barra recorded and released five short videos for GM’s YouTube channel in an ongoing attempt to minimize the damage to her company’s reputation in the court of public opinion. The overall message of the videos is that the public is the automaker’s compass, and GM will develop “a world class process” of vehicle safety evaluation so that nothing resembling the current crisis occurs in the future.

However, Bloomberg says this trial by fire is only the beginning for Barra’s tenure as GM’s CEO. Slow sales in the United States due to harsh winter weather at the start of the year, mitigating losses in Europe, restructuring of global operations in Australia and South Korea, and currency challenges in Russia and South America all have made their impact on GM’s stock value, falling 14 percent since Barra took the reins in mid-January 2014. She also must contend with Volkswagen — who knocked GM down to third in the Big Global Three trio last year — by maintaining or increasing pace in China against the Germans by as much as 10 percent.

Over in Washington, D.C., safety advocates have found the NHTSA lacks the resources needed to properly investigate provided data that could lead to a prompt recall, just as Congress has done all they could to strengthen the agency via the 2000 TREAD Act established in the wake of the 2000 Firestone-Ford recall case.

Currently, the NHTSA’s Office of Defect Investigations saw their numbers fall from 62 to 51 investigators over the years, and operates on an annual budget of $10 million since 2005. Meanwhile, the number of registered vehicles increased to 248 million in the same time, a number proving difficult to monitor — resulting in the recall crises experienced by Toyota and GM — as Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety president Jackie Gillan explains:

The idea of $10 million for an office that’s in charge of the safety of all these vehicles, undertaking investigations and doing the recalls, it’s just ridiculous. You look at the number of people working on this, you look at their inadequate funding, and you think to yourself, no wonder this is happening over and over again.

For their part, NHTSA spokesman Nathan Taylor defended his agency’s record, citing 929 recalls involving over 55 million vehicles in the last seven years as a result of their investigations. In addition, he says automakers paid a total of over $85 million in fines over delays, and notes fatalities related to defects are at an historic low. However, Taylor believes the process could be improved:

[The agency] pursues investigations and recalls wherever our data justifies doing so. NHTSA is constantly looking for ways to improve our process so we can better identify serious safety defects.

On the lawsuit front, Charles and Grace Silvas of Texas have asked U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to force GM to issue a “park it now” warning to all affected owners not to drive their vehicles until the ignition switch is fixed. The possible class action suit — which could net up to $10 billion in damages — was filed not due to any fatalities experienced by the Silvas, but because the defect’s concealment led to lost resale value.

USA Today reports that Barclays analyst Brian Johnson is predicting that GM will create a settlement fund between $1 billion and $1.5 billion for affected customers, on top of banking $1 billion to pay the potentially sizable fine issued by the U.S. federal government when all is said and done. Johnson says the funds could be funneled through “Old GM,” which would maintain the wall protecting “New GM” from pre-bankruptcy liabilities.

Reuters and USA Today both warn of potential headaches dealerships and repair shops will likely experience as the recall crisis continues to unfold.

One major headache for dealers and independent parts stores will be sifting through the spare parts room to find which ignition is the improved part, and which one is the defective unit. The problem comes from both sharing the same part numbers — GM 10392423 and Delphi D14611 — a move that is considered to be counter to standard operating procedure when fixing a defective part.

For repair shops, this means the only way to tell which part is which — outside of possessing forensic engineering tools — is by disassembling every single ignition related to the recall.

The second issue: Finding enough loaner vehicles for every affected customer. Thus far, GM received 9,000 requests for such vehicles, but despite calling upon rental companies such as Enterprise and Hertz for backup, dealers are having a hard time placing customers in loaners, including Kolar Chevrolet general manager Dwayne Haapanen:

There’s been a bit of a struggle finding the cars. I burned up all my loaner fleet, and we’ve been renting from Enterprise — and now they are out of cars.

Consumers are also having a hard time obtaining a loaner, though quantity isn’t the only issue. GM’s hotline for recall questions and loaner requests has seen long waits for callers, as well as a lack of thorough training for those manning the phones, sometimes leading to request denials. The automaker is adding staffing and improving training to alleviate the problems.

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50 Comments on “GM Hits Social Media, As Part Number Debacle Adds Confusion...”


  • avatar
    Omnifan

    Suing over “lost resale value” on a 10 year old cheapo car? Give me a break.

    GM needs to buy up all the aftermarket switches out there and destroy them. That’s we did where I used to work. When a part was obsoleted through a part number change, we would obsolete the stock and destroy it.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Except GM did not change the part number, so it is much more difficult and expensive to ensure you are collecting and destroying the correct part.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Per my earlier post on this subject:

      “keeping the same part number makes purchasing, documentation, and inventory control easier – especially for a modest design change.
      This approach is used all the time in many companies.”

      Remember, GM didn’t believe this was a recall-worthy change when the switch improvement was made.

      But I agree with you that going forward, GM really needs to purge the baddies out of the system.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        If you’re going to all the trouble of changing the part, because you’re made aware of the safety implications, why intentionally create confusion on the shelf? The dealer is made aware by TSB, but the parts person grabs the old part as if it’s the new updated part.

        When a car’s warranty is over, dealers and OEMs make a killing off of updated and improved parts, obviously with new parts numbers. Transmission (dealer only) ‘hard parts’ especially. It makes you wonder if they don’t make the parts shoddy to begin with, by design.

        No, GM wanted the problem to quietly go away unnoticed. At the time, GM didn’t know if GM was ‘going away’.

      • 0 avatar
        cwallace

        Using the same part number, particularly after a design change, is not a good idea. It works fine until you discover that half your fleet of P/N 6973423-J is bad, but you can’t tell who has which version of that part on their shelf or in their unit. Even if a part was the same design, but came from a different supplier, you’d give it a different part number so you could keep track of them in the event of an issue.

        Otherwise you’d have to issue an engineering bulletin so that your teams in the field can learn to differentiate between different versions of the same part based on whatever subtle differences came before and after the design change, or from different suppliers. It’s a lot easier to ask them to just read the number stamped on it.

  • avatar

    If they revised the part it should 100% have a new number or revision number. Preferably in a case like this a new number so you can easily differentiate.

    While the danger of this defect if it happens is very serious, the number of times it occurs has seemed very small in relation to the number of cars containing the part.

    That being said, the handling this far by GM has been completely inept. That is the story of GM failure of the past half century. What should they do to fix the problem? At this point with a company this size is there really any way to fix the problem. I don’t see any way you could eliminate the overlap/unqualified/red tape that has become ingrained in such a large global operation. Creating a new position/department isn’t the correct answer. They need to look internally to fixing the broken systems they use. I don’t know anything about the new CEO but she has been given a near impossible task and they handed her the wheel just as two wheels fell off and the engine started started smoking. I don’t see any way the GM story could end than in another bankruptcy and sell off of assets (which should have happened the first time though I would like to see them protected from being sold to foreign investors.

    • 0 avatar
      Johnny Canada

      When GM paid back the bailout loan in the form of stock, the American taxpayer ended up taking a loss of 9.7 billion dollars, not including the screwing that the bond holders took.

      So what’s the big deal if GM needs a few billion to Bondo over this problem? Too big to fail, right?

  • avatar
    Hummer

    OT, but what is with Ford and GM in Europe, apparently they can’t be profitable.
    However instead of building cars focused on American desires, we get euro designs… Designs that lose money where they originated….

    Either pull out of Europe and stop wasting F150 profits to keep it running, or give American cars American attributes, euro manufacturers offer euro style cars and Japanese manufacturers offer their own styles and qualities, yet American manufactuers tote euro style? WTF?

    • 0 avatar
      Carfan94

      What do you mean? The Ford Focus and the Opel Astra are the best selling cars in Europe, The best selling car in the UK for the past 40 years has always been a Ford product, They would be stupid to pull out of Europe! And I would also say that the new euro style Fords(Fiesta,Focus,Fusion) have been highly successful, and popular with Americans.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        I knew they were best selling cars before I posted, but if your not making money what’s the point in the trophy?

        I mean what’s the expected turn around in Europe?
        If the cars sell because of better quality, then raise the prices, you may lose a few percent of sales, but realistically if your not making money, why keep going?

        And yes I realize that Euro style has sold fairly decent, but I’m just putting it out there that a 3rd styling language would be pretty dang neat. Especially since America does in fact keep Ford afloat.

        • 0 avatar
          geeber

          Ford has made several moves to restructure its European operations and bring them into the black. Abandoning the market entirely, however, would be foolish.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Ford should just keep its Euro operations going long enough to inject some American staples. Mustang, F-Series, Expedition. If it doesn’t work out, then put a bullet in it.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Basically everybody is having trouble in Europe, which is why you are seeing Euro-centric companies such as PSA and Fiat (excluding its Chrysler operations) struggling so much.

      That is what high costs and a still weak market gets you. It has little to do with European styling or vehicle dynamics.

    • 0 avatar
      CapVandal

      Ford should split their company in two:

      Ford 150 and Everything Else. I would invest in Ford 150.

  • avatar
    vcficus

    As an automotive supplier I wanted to give The General the benefit of the doubt (don’t call on them anymore, but you always want them to do well) but this part number staying the same is a HUGE red flag…

    Normally either the base number changes to a different number or if it has a suffix like AA that goes to AB, AC, etc if the part is similar enough, depends on the company. GM usually changes the base but bottom line is if ANYTHING functional or related to new tooling (as this would be, different plunger in an assembly) changes the number HAS to change… traceability, etc.

    If number was NOT bumped but part is different that is a major smoking gun… could have been done at the base engineering level of releasing the part but would still need collaboration at one level above at least.

    Whole stinking of pile of NOT GOOD, pulled all my wife’s keys off her chain and the little stuffed cow too until her G5 gets done and showed her the failure mode. I’m still blaming Wagoner and their potted plant board of 10 years ago for letting this culture fester.

    • 0 avatar

      I completely agree. I used to work QC for an electronics manufacturer and ANY time anything down to a component supplier changed the way they made something to their own part number it required retesting to ensure acceptance and then our part would have to change with a revision number or added letter or number to the part we made. This practice is pretty much universally accepted as standard practice for any small company let alone one of the largest car manufacturers in the world.

      This is a big red flag to me as well. Someone was either purposefully trying to hide the change or they are woefully incompetent of how to handle part changes. Neither looks good on GM here.

      • 0 avatar
        ExPatBrit

        My company builds electronic parts, while the model number and description might stay the same either the part number or rev will always change.

        No way of keeping track otherwise.

        • 0 avatar

          > My company builds electronic parts, while the model number and description might stay the same either the part number or rev will always change.

          The problem thus far is there’s no actual info on what happened, but plenty of idiots willing to speculate on that basis.

    • 0 avatar
      namstrap

      GM doesn’t use letters in their part numbers.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    You can already smell GM’s strategy; “we require the diligent efforts of the NHTSA as watchdog against potential failures in the marketplace. Unfortunately, due to aggressive congressional budget cuts (lead by evil Republicans no doubt), the NHTSA was unable to effectively institute failsafe protocols”.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “You look at the number of people working on this (at the NHTSA), you look at their inadequate funding, and you think to yourself, no wonder this is happening over and over again.”

    Not so. The NHTSA can’t make cars more safe, any more than hiring extra cops will reduce drug problems.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s interesting that the special interest group is calling to expand NHTSA’s staffing while NHTSA defends itself saying that they can handle their job load just fine.

      I’m less interested in the failure of NHTSA and GM to notice a problem and start a recall than I am in how Delphi and GM’s quality control procedures failed and how out of spec parts got manufactured and installed. That strikes me as a more fundamental failure than the expected institutional inertia that makes bureaucracies (corporate and government) fail to react to problems.

      Yes, we want to be sure that companies fix things when there’s a problem and for whatever regulatory authorities that are empowered to act to protect the public to do so, but I’m a lot more concerned about companies using bad parts in the first place than how they recall and fix them.

  • avatar
    gtrslngr

    # 1 – Yeah … like ‘ Social Media ‘ is going to solve all GM’s problems at present …. as well as whats coming down the pike at a 100 mph … You betcha !

    #2 – Confusion is just one aspect of GM’s ongoing strategies to deal with the realities of their foibles . The rest of their bag of tricks containing ;

    a- Excuses
    b – Blame shifting
    c – Scapegoats
    d- Outright lying
    e- Smoke & Mirrors
    f – Hype & Hyperbole etc

    Noticing nowhere in that list is included : Honesty – Integrity or concern for their customers well being despite the fact we’ve been bailing/subsidizing/ financing their survival since the late 60′s .

    Hell will freeze over or I’ll walk first before ever so much as darkening the doorstep of ANY GM dealership … never mind consider buying/leasing one .

  • avatar

    Those of us who have worked on older British cars are somewhat amused that people would be surprised about multiple versions of parts having the same part number. Some days they used whatever was on the shelf (or in the case of Lotus, more likely whatever they could bargain out of the local Ford or Triumph dealer). My Elan is a Series 2, but a very late one, and it has at least a few Series 3 parts on it.

    I love how the service manuals say stuff like “Some later models will have… requiring the use of a special spanner for removal”.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      That’s pretty common. I recall during the last Toyota fiasco it was revealed that two different manufacturers supplied the gas pedals. I’m pretty sure that they did, however, have different part numbers, as I presume did the parts that Lotus was pulling off the shelf.

      In the electronics world, it’s not that unusual to see substantial changes to a component with no change in part number, but it is damn annoying. GM should not be letting their suppliers get away with such practices.

    • 0 avatar
      doctor olds

      Quality people always want P/N changes to track improvements. No one else wants to change them, in no small part because of pressure to de-proliferate P/Ns.

      Outside the US, several EU countries and Japan notably have type approval certification requirements that make P/N changes especially cumbersome for manufacturers. That has nothing to do with the GM situation at hand, of course, but there are factors of which most people would be unaware that influence changing of P/N’s.

      It is certainly true that low ignition key turning torque was not viewed as a safety issue at the time.

      • 0 avatar

        > It is certainly true that low ignition key turning torque was not viewed as a safety issue at the time.

        It was, just not by the person who signed off on the changes. This was in 2006, after TSB about low torque. It’s typical big corp left hand oblivious to right hand.

  • avatar
    vcficus

    Ronnie,

    True, but do you recommend British automotive engineering practices of the 60s today?

    Even my 1976 Regal’s headlights both worked when I used the turn signal… Coin flip on your MG! :-)

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I saw this article’s photo, and all that came to mind was a coconut jellybean.

    So thanks for that, I don’t really like coconut flavored candy.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    I don’t see a need to scrap or disassemble (much more expensive due to labor) every questionable ignition. The problem is that some number of them turn off when a very small amount of torque is applied. I would hope there is a specification for the minimum safe torque. Build a lever that can apply this torque to a key in the ignition in the run position. If the torque applied by the lever turns the ignition off, it fails. If it doesn’t, the ignition is safe.

    The levers should be cheap to design and build. Ignitions can be tested in a few seconds by service advisors. A skilled mechanic isn’t needed. Send recall notices to all owners with suspect ignitions. If the ignition on a given car passes, send the owner on his way reassured that his car is safe. If it fails, give the owner a loaner while the ignition is replaced.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      This is another of the things that GM will never do because it makes sense.

    • 0 avatar

      > I don’t see a need to scrap or disassemble (much more expensive due to labor) every questionable ignition. The problem is that some number of them turn off when a very small amount of torque is applied. I would hope there is a specification for the minimum safe torque. Build a lever that can apply this torque to a key in the ignition in the run position. If the torque applied by the lever turns the ignition off, it fails. If it doesn’t, the ignition is safe.

      Oh boy, another genius in our midst. Guess what: every engineer even of the quality found on ttac can figure this out. The problem at this point isn’t simply technical, but legal liability.

      Unfortunately those outside professions where being right matters usually aren’t interested in actual problem solving but rather sensationalist firebrand BS evident all across the net on this case.

      This includes the dumbasses who can’t tell a torque from a turtle sitting in the jury who ultimately decide culpability should not all switches be replaced and someone with a good one dies in a crash.

  • avatar

    > The problem comes from both sharing the same part numbers — GM 10392423 and Delphi D14611 — a move that is considered to be counter to standard operating procedure when fixing a defective part.

    Just wondering if among all the blabbing in the auto press anyone has bothered to check the differences yet to make an empirical determination if new part # was warranted.

    Was this a design change, or die change, fixing some misaligned tooling, or what? So much worthless BS, so few facts.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Hey, you and I agree on something.

    • 0 avatar
      epc

      Before the change, the switch was non-conforming to the design specification. After the change, it became conforming.

      Form. Fit. Or Function. If 1 of the 3 changes, you change the part number. In this case, even not knowing the technical details, it is self-evident that the functioning changed. That alone is empirical enough to warrant a p/n change.

      • 0 avatar

        > Form. Fit. Or Function. If 1 of the 3 changes, you change the part number. In this case, even not knowing the technical details, it is self-evident that the functioning changed. That alone is empirical enough to warrant a p/n change.

        Tightening a process back up is not a “function” change.

        From the non-existent info on this issue, this is just as likely:

        GM: Hey dudes, sum of yer key switches are bit loose.
        Delphi: LOL, damn n00b intern didn’t screw that cutter back on right. Imma tighten it down, laters.
        GM: Whatev’s, back to my 3 hr union lunch/nap break.

        • 0 avatar
          epc

          > Tightening a process back up is not a “function” change.

          Function refers to the action or performance of the part produced by the process. If the “loose” process produced a part that functioned a certain way, and after “tightening” the process the part functioned in another way, then you had a function change.

          • 0 avatar

            > If the “loose” process produced a part that functioned a certain way, and after “tightening” the process the part functioned in another way, then you had a function change.

            Since you consider begging the question a valid argument this proves the contrary:

            If the “loose” process produced a part that functioned a certain way, and after “tightening” the process the part functioned the same way, then you have no function change.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          LOL. Actually, it could be that simple.

          Until the details come out, I really think GM’s conduct – although imperfect – can be defended.

          Some people would have us think GM wants to kill its customers, or is indifferent about it.

          • 0 avatar

            The point is, many love to portray various entities as either clueless dumbasses or Machivellian machinators, whichever is more convenient to the narrative at a given time. Given the popular “not my problem” and “somebody else’s fault” attitudes endemic at *every level* in the big 3 during their malaise, it’s quite likely whatever happened in the specifics here had nothing to do with company policy much less some grand maniacal scheme.

            The figures tell the tale: a handful of correlations out of thousands over a decade; that’s barely statistically significant to those who grasp how numbers work.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      >If the “loose” process produced a part that functioned a certain way, and after “tightening” the process the part functioned the same way, then you have no function change.

      Good part, Bad part. That simple. It doesn’t matter how they each got to be that way. The problem is the good ones didn’t get to the cars that needed them. And to top it off, GM dealers didn’t know there were defective ignitions (apparently working good and not broken) out there to be swapped out for good ones that don’t have that ‘automatic’ shut off feature.

      Girl named Brook Milton drops off her ’05 Cobalt at the Chevy dealer, complaining of the car “shutting off while driving.” Dealer douches the throttle body with solvent/cleaner and ships it (“customer pay”). This was in 2010, long after the ‘good’ ignition switches were on the shelf.

      She was killed the day after she picked up her car. It shut off in traffic and she gets T-boned.

      youtube.com/watch?v=T4H73EnpS0w

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Lemme see, if someone takes their car to a GM dealer to get a poorly designed part fixed; they get an new GM loaner with God knows what is wrong to drive while the original poorly designed/made/installed to factory (engineering) specs gets fixed? Such a deal! I want to do it twice!

  • avatar

    Googling to the hilt, I’ve finally found a doc from GM that actually goes into some detail:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/209513949/022414-13054-Chronology

    • 0 avatar

      Some notes on above doc:

      1. GM is aware of heavy key jostling problem in isolated case from 2004, and more than one in 2005. Issues service bulletin to dealers to affix key insert for those w/ issue in 2005. Seems lackadaisical, but perhaps par for course in that era.

      2. In 2006 a GM design engineer signs off on various changes to ignition by Delphi. Noteworthy Delphi also never changed part #.

      3. In 2007 GM finds 10 possibly related cases to this, and about half show ignition in acc

      4. 2009 different process changes keys to smaller hole, also later meet with Continental who verifies ignition in acc in ~half of 14 possibly related incidents

      5. 2011 GM finally gets around to this srsly after car is out of production. Due to new admin? Maybe.

      6. 2012 Full scale investigation. So incompetent it didn’t even figure out the change by delphi in 2006, but sure does reference “six-sigma”, lol. But does notice easier engagement on earlier vehicles.

      7. 2013 Investigating “engineer” of the quality often seen on TTAC finally figures out the delphi change.

      8. 2014 Recall time. GM has to date record of 23 crashes where this was an issue (likely no-deploy w/ key in acc/off), of which 6 were fatal.

      Analysis:

      A. It’s pretty obvious they were lackadaisical about fixes, but the record speaks to incompetence more than anything. They could’ve easy changed the keys over to a small ring-hole to fix the problem in 2005, but instead went for a TSB which probably didn’t cost any less. Maybe they didn’t think it was a big deal given very few incidents at the time or maybe it was easier paperwork, who knows.

      B. Similarly, if there’s some “cover-up” it makes no sense to keep digging into this issue with various disparate parties each seemingly with their own solutions.

      C. For the part number issue, the changes seem to come from Delphi, who didn’t bother to change their #. It is policy for GM to change theirs regardless? That’s an open question contingent on whether whoever signed off made a connection to safety work done by some other group. Given the level of general incompetence it’s unlikely, but OTOH not impossible he just didn’t give a damn or didn’t want it to blow back on him.

      D. If this whole debacle is reflective of industry safety practices it was correct for the admin/NHTSA to step up enforcement. GM specifically has too many department oblivious to each other when these sort of issues need holistic solutions.

  • avatar

    There are way too many recalls for people to care about, anybody recall a brand new GMC Yukon SUV catches fire during test drive? just a few days ago?
    Anybody knows that Honda will replace an engine on all 2006-2009 Civic??
    And about this GM recall, what are we talking about? a Cobalt? a Saturn ion? who in the right mind buy these cars?

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Shouldn’t every car maker have one manager who’s sole responsibility is making sure their cars don’t kill off their clientele? Shouldn’t GM have several? Gathering all consumer complaints, lawsuits, settlements, accidents/injuries/deaths involving their cars? Plus TSBs, recalls, updated part numbers, etc, in one central office?

    The customers that don’t die and continue buying GM autos might pay a majority of their salaries. And shouldn’t those managers also be forced to daily drive all of GM’s autos?

    But once the service adviser enters the VIN, all TSBs and recalls should pop up. Otherwise, wtf? And the dealer’s feet should be held to the fire. They’re more interested in what they can upsell the customer. And the database should log and organize popular complaints from customers.

    • 0 avatar

      > Shouldn’t every car maker have one manager who’s sole responsibility is making sure their cars don’t kill off their clientele?

      Per regulatory requirement they already have processes & personnel on this.

      The crux of the problem in this case seemed to be that whoever signed off on the Delphi part change(s) in 2006 wasn’t part of the process (why should a mundane update be?), and since it was fixed upstream by 2007 only a certain band of cars made reflected in ~dozen incidents total (of thousands) which possibly looked like an odd statistical glitch to investigators unaware of this.

      It took another battery of tests 2012 thorough 2013 to find the part of a part responsible. This was perhaps exacerbated by other factors such as wear & tear producing uneven deterioration (thus blending values of the two differing parts) and other overlapping steering lock related changes.

      In any case, complexity of process/product and simplicity of solution are mutually exclusive demands. At a fundamental level the human mind is functionally limited to only a piece of the oversized puzzle. In a machine complicated as a car in an org of GM’s (or Toyota, et al’s) size and mediocrity these sort of errors are pretty much a given. The only viable goal is mitigation, not elimination.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Anyone know why GM issued a stop-sale order on 1.4 liter turbo Chevy Cruzes yesterday?


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