Bill Ford v. Larry King: Village Idiocy about the Auto Industry

John Cole is right, this Larry King interview of Bill Ford deserves more attention.

Here’s what Cole pointed to: Ford insisting that (contrary to what the plantation caucus believes) the UAW is not the problem.

KING: What about the UAW in all of this?

FORD: Well, the UAW obviously has been our partner through all of this. Have they made mistakes and have we made mistakes? Of course. The UAW has come a long way. I think their leader, Ron Gettelfinger, is an excellent leader and he really understands our business. In this last contract, he gave up a lot. He’s also indicated they’re willing to come to the table to do more. And so for anybody to blame the UAW as the sole reason for this is frankly wrong.

Hey, David Sanger? Your assertion that the problem is distrust between the UAW and the manufacturers? You think maybe Mr. Ford knows something you don’t?

Just as interesting to me are the number of times that Ford had to instruct Larry King on things that–had he been paying attention at all–he would have known.

There are the 3 times that King suggested Ford was in the same boat as GM and Chrysler.

KING: How much danger, frankly, are you in? Can you give us the picture without being too technical?

FORD: Actually, Ford, we were profitable in the first quarter. Our plan is working. Our market share is picking up. I believe we’re headed exactly where the country wants us to go.


KING: What was the key turning point for you that sent this downward?

FORD: As I said, we made money in the first quarter, and we were well on our way.


KING: Is that a good point, Bill, that your products were behind the times and now you want a bailout through your fault?

FORD: Actually, Larry, we’re not asking for a bailout. Our competitors are.

Here’s Larry King completely missing the fact that most developed nations are backing their auto industries–and so it’s no big surprise that any American car companies might need credit.

KING: Why do you need the line of credit?

FORD: We’re saying we don’t need it now, but we’re saying, if the global economy does not pick up, you know, it would be, basically, a line of credit that we could draw upon. Larry, it’s interesting because this slowdown now is happening in Europe, Asia and South America. And governments around the world are lining up to support their auto industries.

Here’s Larry King repeating the ignorant assumption that Ford ought to be rooting for GM’s downfall.

KING: Would it frankly benefit you if GM and Chrysler went under?

FORD: No, because the dislocation to the supply base that we all rely upon would be massive. Our suppliers are not in terrific shape. By the way, those same suppliers also supply the Japanese and European transplants as well. It wouldn’t just be us affected.

Here’s Larry King getting reminded that Ford cars in other markets–because they respond to sound policy like gas taxes–are very efficient (making the argument I’ve made–that we need a gas tax).

FORD: Because it’s interesting, as gasoline was low here, it was taxed and much higher in other parts of the world, particularly Europe, but also in Asia. And as a result, we made small cars in Asia and in Europe and in South America and we made money doing so. Now we’re bringing those vehicles here to the U.S.

So what’s interesting is, while we stuck with that business model here, because of the price of gasoline, we were pursuing a very different strategy in Europe and South America and Asia, and we were growing and profitable. We’re bringing those vehicles here now.

KING: I keep forgetting how global you are.

And here’s Larry King missing well-known details about the Chrysler loan in 1979.

KING: All right. Explain how the line in credit — line of credit would work.

Like a bank?

FORD: Well, basically, yes. I mean it’s — we would only draw on it if needed, but we hope we never need it.

KING: Didn’t Chrysler do that some years ago.?

FORD: Well, Chrysler actually got — you know, you’ll remember, during the Iacocca days, they actually did go through…

KING: Right.

FORD: They actually did take federal money.

KING: Oh, they did?

Now, mr. emptywheel pointed out that this is not all bad–by explaining things slowly to Larry King all simple like, Ford may well reach others who haven’t been paying attention (and, unlike King, who aren’t paid to). And, frankly, King looked a little, um, tired. So really, I’m not complaining about King, per se.

Though it is a pretty good read of the state of the understanding, among villagers, of the auto industry.

No wonder the auto relief is fighing an uphill battle.

66 replies
  1. radiofreewill says:

    More Americans need to get their News and News Analysis from Firedoglake.

    The Lake is moving with Clarity at the Speed of Life, whereas the TradMed is mired in Outdated Frames of Reference, more hopelessly than ever dis-connected in mis-understanding from Now.

  2. Rayne says:

    Wow. More of that, please.

    That’s one of the best advertisements for an American carmaker I’ve heard in years.

    But Ford also was an effective speaker for the entire industry. He should have been the guy doing the talking for the industry in front of Congress; he makes the entire mess personal because it’s his family and his family name he’s talking about.

    Also handled the confrontations with callers well, too, better than I think any of the rest of the top dogs at Big Three would have done.

  3. BooRadley says:

    Now, mr. emptywheel pointed out that this is not all bad–by explaining things slowly to Larry King all simple like, Ford may well reach others who haven’t been paying attention (and, unlike King, who aren’t paid to). And, frankly, King looked a little, um, tired. So really, I’m not complaining about King, per se.

    Completely agree.

  4. klynn says:

    Thanks for the post EW. I would have liked him to explain a little more about how anything happening to his competitors would hurt Ford and the US. He did touch on it.

    • Rayne says:

      The explanation doesn’t lend itself to neat soundbites.

      The foreign carmakers rely on the American automakers and vice versa to share the burden of R&D for many fixed cost items related to operations; they also rely on each other to push costs down. They don’t act in concert since that would be antitrust, but the pressure each of them bring to bear keeps overall pricing down.

      Without the purchasing power of any one of the Big 3, the rest could count on prices slipping upward.

      For example: a specialized paint system is sold to Carmaker A; Carmaker B susses out that Carmaker A has this new system and quality of product is greater as a result. Carmaker B asks paint system suppliers to bid on a system that produces quality of product like Carmaker A now has. The paint system suppliers all submit bids; the bids are reviewed by Carmaker B, who sees that one of them has a system very much like Carmaker A’s, but they want a slight tweak to improve quality in some respect. The paint system supplier has already done most of the engineering for quality on the system for Carmaker A, can focus on adding only the new functionality requested. Carmaker B further beats on cost, by shuffling the bid through different iterations: use this screw manufacturer instead of that one, use this electronic supplier instead of that one, offer three different plans each with a different software application. Having done this before and gotten bids directly for these sub-components, they can deduce the paint suppliers’ mark-up for margin and then whittle away at it in negotiations until they have a meeting of the minds.

      And then Carmaker C does the same thing, benefitting from the aggregated engineering and pricing improvements that the previous two carmakers have obtained.

      Doesn’t matter if Carmaker A, B or C is foreign or domestic; they all rely on each other to do this invisible negotiation. Take any one of them out and somebody loses on a generation of engineering and price improvements.

      This is how American cars have gotten to be as good as Japanese, incidentally — and why Japanese have developed cars that are a helluva lot more popular with the American public than the Datsun B210.

      Remember that ugly little rust bucket when somebody bad mouths American cars.

        • Rayne says:

          A matter of opinion. My point was that America has acquired a hobby of bad mouthing its cars but forgetting how egregiously bad foreign cars have been, and not noticing that ALL cars have improved because of the increasing integration of their supply chain.

          You want more than Datsun B210 with its hideous body integrity paired with a whopping, wheezy 64-hp or Chevy Vega’s oil-burning rust bucket?

          How about Renault Alliance.

          AMC Pacer.

          Ford Pinto.

          Fiat 124 and its sister 128.

          Volkswagen Rabbit diesel (I could run faster than this beast).

          Ultimately, the U.S. auto industry didn’t fail at improving quality, keeping up with its competitors and often providing the technology that their competitors used against them. It was a failure of marketing, a failure of branding.

      • foothillsmike says:

        I had a toyota Mark III in 1970. Never had a car that was deliberately trying to kill me before or after.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Corker’s background is apparently real estate development. I’m increasingly suspicious that the background players in this disaster** are the CDS (credit default swap) owners who stand to make a lot more money from default than they do from saving the companies. Looks to me like Corker and the GOP may be getting punk’d by the very ‘financial instruments’ they originally created under Bush I, then revised and refined (and refused to regulate) under Bush II.

        Which means that under the guise of ‘protecting’ his non-union Toyota constituents in TN, Corker is helping throw millions of people — plus the taxpayers and national security — under the bus.

        It doesn’t appear that any member of the Plantation Caucus grasps Rayne’s point, part of which I think is especially relevant to all industrial sectors:

        The paint system supplier has already done most of the engineering for quality on the system for Carmaker A, can focus on adding only the new functionality requested. Carmaker B further beats on cost, by shuffling the bid through different iterations…

        And then Carmaker C does the same thing, benefitting from the aggregated engineering and pricing improvements that the previous two carmakers have obtained.

        And just to drive home Rayne’s point…

        Published: December 17, 2008 HONG KONG: Honda cut its full-year forecast for net profit by 62 percent Wednesday, the latest sign of the dramatic drop in demand that has hammered the global car industry and sent U.S. manufacturers scurrying for government aid.

        For the fiscal year ending March 31, Honda lowered its net profit forecast to ¥185 billion, or $2.08 billion…. (Yen strengthens, dollar weakens; bad for Honda sales.)
        More at the NYT EU edition:…..s/auto.php

        **”disaster” because in order to move to a green economy rapidly, the US needs to retain control of engineering resources and also of engineering patents. Ford CEO Mulally’s engineering degree is in AA (aeronautics) but he worked at Boeing, heading up the Dreamliner program before Ford nabbed him away. Boeing is definitely a ‘global’ firm, so Mulally had some very relevant experience before heading for Ford. Corker and the Plantation Caucus, OTOH, are clueless. (Even Cheney, from his Halliburton experience, would have a better grasp of the engineering problems than Corker, McConnell, or the rest of those GOP fools. Jeez…!)

  5. klynn says:


    Have you ever thought of interviewing mr. emptywheel as a post on the auto bailout? He brings some great perspective…

  6. bmaz says:

    Also handled the confrontations with callers well, too, better than I think any of the rest of the top dogs at Big Three would have done.

    Yep, I think that is right. I don’t think Wagoner is currently a problem at GM, he did wait too late in the game to start transforming his behemoth, but he is not a real problem at this point; however, he was horrid on the witness stand in front of Congress. Believe it or not, I actually thought Nardelli came off the best as far as atyle and presentation ability. Wagoner was teriible for the most part though. Young Ford would have done well.

  7. Prairie Sunshine says:

    Larry King is reflective of the general dissonant dementia disconnect of the 20th Century media.

    Meanwhile, Obama discusses the state of the economy live now on CNN while in a wee box in the corner, Dumbya flails “Live.” Kinda sums up him, as well.

  8. ThingsComeUndone says:

    Larry should fire his research staff they seemed to pull tough sounding questions…based on a GOP Phony reality!

  9. Waccamaw says:

    KING: I keep forgetting how global you are.

    King forgets a *lot* of things (or never knew them in the first place)…….his “sell by” date expired a long time ago.

  10. rwcole says:

    ford’s newest products are scoring as highly as the japanese cars in quality- and Ford is first with a small SUV hybrid. They will also be coming out with a hybrid version of the fusion this year that will get 40 mpg- much better than the Camry hybrid which gets about 35.

    Ford is doing a good job. They recently had to run double shifts to produce enough Ford 150 pickups- trucks that moved into short supply.

      • rwcole says:

        I don’t know. More serious is the question of interim financing for dealers- which enables them to build an inventory to sell- if that’s dried up- the dealers will blow away like the wind.

        • ThingsComeUndone says:

          If the problem is a lack of credit then its not the car makers fault they have product that will sell if they can get people loans.
          This is all the Banks fault then.
          The MSM has been spinning this like its all the car makers fault, the GOP has been spinning this as its all the Unions fault.

          • rwcole says:

            Well a lot of car purchases until 06 were being financed with lines of credit on houses- those have dried up for many so they are forced to drive a car longer. My car is four years old and has 70,000 miles. I figure it can go 150,000 if needed- so I may just do that.

          • Badwater says:

            The Decider said long ago that his tax cuts would fix everything.
            Funny how that didn’t work out, him being a Havard MBA and all.

              • Badwater says:

                Harvard needs to have a special designation for those like Bush who purchase, through either cash or connections, rather than earn their degrees. Perhaps something like MBA*.

                • ThingsComeUndone says:


                  My Cousin always asks his Doctors so you went to Harvard where did you graduate in your class the top middle or bottom?
                  Granted with legacies getting C’s their is a bottom that is qualified barely and a special legacy bottom that is not qualified did not go to school to learn but rather to meet the right people.

    • RevBev says:

      Thanks for that update. I have a ford with more than 125T miles and a great auto mechanic. Im the last to complain about Ford….though I hate trucks, I have to say.

      • rwcole says:

        I’ve never owned a pick up- because I have never needed one- but many people DO- those who work construction and those who live on farms for example…those little trucks do much of the real work in this country and deserve a place of respect.

        • RevBev says:

          Thanks….I don’t disagree. I do live in TX however where alot are hot-shot toys for kids or parents who want to be kids….obviously not the ones you are talking about.

          • rwcole says:

            I’ve lived in Texas- there are lots of pickups in towns everywhere that don’t do much work- although some haul big boats and RVs from time to time- not to mention motorcycles.

            I’ve often wondered what percentage of gasoline use goes for “recreation”.

  11. Diane says:

    When facts don’t fit narrative, those reporting just ignore the facts. Another case of “so?” or “so what!”

  12. ThingsComeUndone says:

    Forget a gas tax just mandate no cars that get less than 40 mpg. The burden to the poor will be less that way.

    • emptywheel says:

      So the poor shouldn’t be asked to pay any of their real costs (or even a subsidized cost) of driving?

      Basically you’re asking the auto companies to subsidize the poor, in huge value, that way. Being broke, some might consider them poor.

      The problem with mandating MPG is that it doesn’t work to affect consumer behavior. Until that changes, you’re not going to see really efficient cars here.

  13. rwcole says:

    Chrysler products still suck and GM, despite a winner or two, continues t have serious quality problems as well- particularly in the cadillac line.

  14. ThingsComeUndone says:

    At Ford, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday it will shut down 10 of its North American assembly plants for an extra week in January, also due to lower U.S. sales.…..37578.html

    Chrysler has shut down all its plants already for a month.

  15. BoxTurtle says:

    I think Obama’s tactic should be this: Get the Dems to put together a decent rescue. When the GOP kills it in the Senate, Obama goes on TV and says “To the Auto industries creditors and suppliers: The senate will pass that exact bill on 1/21. Please grant the industry that amount of time”

    He can even insert something nasty about Mitch, should he wish.

    This would work, IMO. Nobody financialy entangled in GM want’s to see it die.

    Boxturtle (GM plant here in the area closes forever this week. Too late for us)

  16. rwcole says:

    The “secret” of the japanese car makers has been long product runs- the Camry platform for example stays basically unchanged for years, and “continuous improvement”- which is primarily reducing the number of parts in the platform. Fewer parts, easier assembly- less to go wrong.

    • ThingsComeUndone says:

      That and they have been selling more fuel efficient cars they got a rep for that so when high gas prices hit everyone thought of getting one.

  17. rwcole says:

    Ford will also be bringing some of it’s european products to the US market- as Honda did with the fit.

    GM also has some very interesting Opels and Vauxhalls in Europe but they have not signalled that they intend to bring them here. Odd.

    • bmaz says:

      GM also has some very interesting Opels and Vauxhalls in Europe but they have not signalled that they intend to bring them here. Odd.

      Actually, they are working on just that. They are trying to negotiate an accelerated qualification/compliance certification process as we speak in order to get them on showroom floors sooner.

  18. Beerfart Liberal says:

    i would hope it’s not a cae of larry himself being ill-informed but rather asking the questions he believes his ill-informed audience want to know about. (my mom taught me to try to see the best in everybody.)

  19. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Sorry, meant to bold parts of this:

    Published: December 17, 2008 HONG KONG: Honda cut its full-year forecast for net profit by 62 percent Wednesday, the latest sign of the dramatic drop in demand that has hammered the global car industry and sent U.S. manufacturers scurrying for government aid.

    For the fiscal year ending March 31, Honda lowered its net profit forecast to ¥185 billion, or $2.08 billion…. (Yen strengthens, dollar weakens; bad for Honda sales.)
    More at the NYT EU edition:…..s/auto.php

    How or why the Plantation Caucus think they can keep their own offshore car industry workers employed is just baffling. They can’t see that their auto policies are ‘a loop’, rather than a straight line?! I still think the UAW is a Bright, Shiny Object being used to hide the CDS holder interests.

    Not that I expect Larry King to ever connect those dots 8(
    But perhaps Bill Moyers, Rachel Maddow, or KO will… here’s hoping.

    Good grief.

  20. sunshine says:

    Congress was threatened with the stock market tanking and martial law if they didn’t pass the 700 Billion financial bailout.
    The WH got the 700 billion. Evidently the Senate and the House believed that the WH financial friends could tank the stock market because they voted for the bill just weeks before the Presidential election. Our economy might not have been growing but since the forced 700 billion dollar donation to the White House we’ve seen the lose of 5,000 points on the Dow and businesses laying off workers in the multi thousands since we quite buying things. Why? Is this a WH homemade panic?
    Obama CAN NOT give the WH the other 350 billion. HE JUST CAN NOT! Obama cannot not allow the auto co’s 4, 8 or 10 billion loan to be held hostage for the release of the other 350 billion to the WH.

    Rep Brad Sherman from Ca.

    The only way they can pass this bill is by creating and sustaining a panic atmosphere. That atmosphere is not justified. Many of us were told in private conversations that if we voted against this bill on Monday, that the sky would fall, the market would drop 2,000 or 3,000 points the first day, another couple thousand the second day and a few members were even told that there would be martial law in America if we voted no. That’s what I call fear mongering. Unjustified. Proven wrong. We’ve got a week, we’ve got two weeks to write a good bill. The only way to right, to pass a bad bill keep the panic pressure on. Now what has the Senate done to this bill?

    We are told GM ( Chrysler is good till Obama gets in) is threatened with bankruptcy any hour if they don’t get their billions. Is this really true or is Wagner working with the WH to destroy the UAW? Is the WH using the auto co’s loans as hostage for the release for the other 350 billion?

    I asked many weeks ago how do we know there was all these derivatives gambling going on? Just because we read it in a magazine or newspaper or see it on tv doesn’t make it so. Remember the WMD info from all those same sources were all false. I do not trust this adm. How do we know it wasn’t a crock of bull shit? Why should I believe it if there are no documents to prove it?

    • Rayne says:

      There’s another financial industry scandal announced today, insider trading, four people taken into custody.

      Give the TARP money to people who make things.

      Stop giving it to people who only make scandal.

      Seems pretty straightforward to me.

  21. sunshine says:

    Senator Levin was on Rachel Maddow last night. I wrote a transcript. I think Cheney bing on tv the other day and Levin last night is the result of Levins struggle to get the auto loan from the 700 billion WH loan.

    Lame Duck Watch because somebody has to do it.

    Rachel: Just in time for Bush team moving day evidence is stacking up that top Bush officials knew about and approved of torture. Last weeks bipartisan report from the Senate Armed Services Committee says quote:

    “The abuse of detainees in the U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of “a few bad apples” acting on their own. The fact is that senior officials in the United States Government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.”

    If that wasn’t damaging enough, while everyone else, like say Donald Rumsfeld was running around denying or attacking that reports findings. Vice President Cheney, he just went ahead and told ABC news that he not only knew about waterboarding, he thought it was appropriate and he ok’ed it.

    So torture. The abandonment of precious world wide moral authority. And while it’s not a midnight lame duck regulation that can be easily reversed by the Obama administration. Is there a chance that the new administration will do the next best thing to going back in time and undoing torture? Will they prosecute? Will they hold American officials accountable for authorizing it?

    Joining us now from Washington is Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan. He is of course is Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee. Senator Levin, thank you so much for coming on the show tonight.

    Levin: Great to be with you Rachel.

    Rachel: So the Armed Services Committee spent about a year and a half preparing this report on the abuse of prisoners in US military custody. There has been some angry push back from, a seemingly angry push back from former Sec of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. That said, one WH official does not seem to be denying your findings at all. That’s Vice President Dick Cheney who told ABC news this week that he did approve waterboarding as a interrogation technique for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. When you heard that from Dick Cheney, did you feel that confirmed the findings of your report? I mean essentially, did he just admit to condoning torture?

    Levin: As far as I’m concerned that’s exactly what he admitted. Now he’ll say that he doesn’t admit supporting torture but the facts are that the policies which were approved, the legal opinions authorized of these harsh techniques, and when the Vice President of the United States says that he believes, and he said that what just a few nights ago, that waterboarding is appropriate. There is no other conclusion that I can reach, other than that. I know it’s a form of torture. It’s been acknowledged as a form of torture I think since the inquisition. Senator McCain who is the subject of torture is absolutely clear on it. But I think every authority on waterboarding and torture and torture will say waterboarding constitutes torture.

    Rachel: One of the things that I think has been so I guess challenging to the American debate about this is that President Bush and Vice President Cheney have essentially argued that they have legalized waterboarding, that they have legalized torture. They think the actions of their Justice department made things like waterboarding not war crimes any more. Are they right?

    Levin: You can’t just suddenly change some thing that’s illegal into something that is legal by having a lawyer writing an opinion saying that it’s legal. Things can’t work that way or else someone could get a lawyer and say a crime is not a crime and then that would be a defense. It is not a defense. And I was astounded frankly, when I heard the Vice President of the United States sort of just blandly and blindly saying that he thought that was appropriate thing and yes he was involved in discussions about it.

    Rachel: Do there need to be prosecutions? You document very clearly that we have eroded the standards by which prisoners are treated in the United States. How do we unerode those standards if the people who authorized the erosion of those standards are essentially immunized from prosecution.

    Levin: Well the first thing we have to do is what we did at least for the Department of Defense is to bring to light the facts what happened here. What was the origin of the use of these techniques and that’s what we did. We went back to Guantanamo and showed that as a matter of fact that the highest levels of this government. The President when he said that the Geneva Convention did not apply then the Secretary of Defense when he authorized the use of aggressive techniques and then the way they spread first to Afghanistan and then to Iraq. This is the first step on reconstructing the respect of the world for this country and I’m hoping that the Obama administration will be taking major steps in that direction. We need to have the support of the world in out effort against terrorist.

    Rachel: Senator, I do want to press you a little bit on that point about the next steps and what the Obama administration might do? It sounds to me as a layman and concerned citizen in this, it seems to me like when you are assembling these facts and getting access to these documents and putting together this testimony. What you are doing is collecting the facts for an indictment. I know that your not, that’s not the role for a Senate Armed Services Committee. But that’s what it feels like? Do you think there will be prosecutions and will you argue that there should be?

    Levin: What I think it is our role to do is to bring out the facts which we have, to state our conclusions which we have, which is where the origin of these techniques were began. And then to turn over to the Justice Dept. of the next administration cause clearly this Justice Dept is not willing to take an objective look and turn over to the next Justice Dept. all the facts that we can and we have put together and get our report, the rest of it, declassified. But then it seems to me that it is appropriate for there to be an outside commission appointed to take this out of politics and it would have the clear subpoena authority to get to the parts of this which are not yet clear. And that is the role of the CIA. We looked at the roll of Dept. of Defense but the roll of the CIA has not yet been looked at. And let an outside commission reach the kind of conclusions which then may or may not lead to indictments or to civil action. But it is not our role it’s not appropriate for us to reach those kind of those kind of conclusions.

    Rachel: Senator Carl Levin, Democrat, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

    Levin: It was great being with you Rachel.

    Rachel: You heard the “I” word here. Indictments.

  22. freepatriot says:

    KING: Why do you need the line of credit?

    larry king is HOW OLD ???

    and he doesn’t understand that businesses need a line of credit ???

    is this guy competing to be the stupidest guy on the planet or what ???

    oh dougie feith, you got competition

    and how do all those arguments about a pardoned person refusing to testify survive against the “truth commission” that’s coming down the pike ???

  23. sunshine says:

    Who is doing the negotiations?

    I wonder if Andrew Card, Bush’s 1st Chief of Staff who came directly from GM to the WH and served 4 years in the WH, is he in on these negotiations with the WH? Who else is in the negotiations? Wagner, Levin and Cheney? Is the UAW negotiating too? Why hasn’t Wagner taken his case to the news makers, the WH and the UAW has. Ford just did, see video above. Where’s Wagner? This I have to have the billions 3 weeks before a new President is it real? Sounds like the 700 billion dollar financial bail out emergency doesn’t it?

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