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What does General Motors have against electric cars? The brand new "Anthem" TV spot for the Chevrolet Volt that debuts during the World Series tonight (watch it here) contains the line, "This is America, man. Home of the highway, last-minute detours and spontaneous acts of freedom" and makes the emotional case against worrying about range. The ad doesn't attack the Nissan Leaf directly, but it most certainly wants to set the Volt apart from that electric vehicle (EV).

During the recent press launch for the Volt, Micky Bly, General Motors' executive director for hybrid electric vehicles and batteries, dismissed EVs by saying that it would take 28 days to drive from Detroit to Florida in an electric car. Even if he was joking, his message is quite serious. It's also wrong. Heck, if you can pedal your bike 50 miles a day, it would take you just 21 days to get from the Motor City to Jacksonville. If you have an EV with a 100-mile range and can't find a fast-charger anywhere along the way, it would take you 10 days. In a Tesla Roadster, which has an official range of 245 miles, it would take you four or five days. Some intrepid plug-in vehicle fans have already gone from Detroit to Washington, D.C. on an electric Brammo Enertia in two weeks.

No one is arguing that electric cars don't have range limitations, but they have many benefits over gas-powered vehicles and GM is wrong to minimize them. There's nothing wrong with explaining why your own product is better than your opponent's, but GM's continued anti-EV rhetoric is getting annoying. It's also very shortsighted, as we've told GM directly. Read on after the jump to find out why.

First, the pro-EV arguments we've all heard before: electric cars don't send oil money overseas and they don't emit any pollutants from the tailpipe. It's also much cheaper to drive on electrons than gasoline. Okay, that's all old news. The most important reason GM should not denigrate EVs – which the Volt's "It's More Car Than Electric" tagline most certainly does – is that GM itself is working on electric cars. Yes, right now. There are two small EV test fleets that we know of, the Cruzes in Korea and the Opel Merivas in Germany, and who knows what else is happening behind closed doors. GM will have to play in this segment at some point, so the less it bashes EVs now, the easier it'll be for them to sell one later.

GM's marketing department may win the current public relations battle against Nissan and the Leaf by attacking EVs in 2010, but it is totally shooting the GM of 2020 – or whenever GM actually tries to sell a real electric car – in the foot. In effect, GM will eventually be calling out its own technology for being inadequate. A more positive message – something that explains how amazing this Volt is (and it really is an amazing vehicle) and hard GM has worked to make it – would work so much better down the road. After all, down the road is where we all want to see plug-in vehicles, right?




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  • 59 Comments
      amgordo
      • 4 Years Ago
      GM & Chrysler are the "Fox News" of American Car Companies ..They lie or bullsht & assume the American public is all a bunch of hicks from the South or something. Chrysler did this same bullsht with their add about Challenger, having it line up with Gen Washington to take on the Brits, with American Flags waving & sht about "American did 2 things right Freedum & Cars Yeeeeehaaaaw!" But the Challenger is built in CANADA!.Ford is the only American car company that will get my business plus they didn't take any of our money for bail outs. GM is pure BS I remember when they hyped up the "New" haha GTO Bob Clutz got out there on tv saying "The GTO represent bringing back the ol school muscle car blah blah blah" But when it did hit the streets it was nothing but a Holden from Aussie land! & it bombed. Now GM is bullshtting the public again with the Volt. All the while they claim "Oh it's a pure EV car", I laughed & more laughing was correct it's just a plug in hybrid just like the rest.... Just build a good car & don't bullsht people what's so hard about that?
        • 1 Month Ago
        @amgordo
        I agree with most of what you're saying but I don't mind buying Camrys as well because it's pretty much the same percentage as a Mustang , at least in terms how "american built" it is. They're made in Kentucky with american workers.
      • 1 Month Ago
      "...electric cars don't send oil money overseas and they don't emit any pollutants from the tailpipe. It's also much cheaper to drive on electrons than gasoline"

      Cripes - I realize you guys are full-throated supporters of EV's, but it'd be nice if you were just a little bit honest about the above statements. Sure - there's no tailpipe emissions - but it's not emission free. All that EVs do is shift the emissions to a local power plant (which in the US is more often than not - a coal-fired beast).

      Second - you cast about statements like "cheaper to drive" as absolute fact. It's possible it may be cheaper to operate, but out here in California, EV owners will surely be pushed into the highest tiers of PG&E pricing. That means those EVs will be recharged at 40-50 cents per KWh - making an 8-hour charge at least comparable to the marginal costs of operating a petroleum-fueled vehicle.
      • 4 Years Ago
      At least manufacturers may get a clue of what people are thinking by reading all these comments. And we all know they read them.

      What I do remember is that I have heard numerous times that 40 all electric miles thing, and that most americans (who usually travel within such a distance daily) won't really need to stop at a gas station...

      And now they have switched it all to the range "issue". Stating how long the car can actually go beyound those 40 miles, when origianlly this was not important and the emphasis was on the electric part and "non-gas station" travelling.

      So I am not sure what the next GM Volt campaign will be - meanwhile real world tests will start showing what we are talking about.

      Now it may all be carefully planned and every next stage of the campaign makes sense, who knows ...

      It really is way beyond just a simple attack or so against Leaf - countless factors weigh and this is so complicated - bad thing is lots of money have to go into marketing and expensive campaigns and stuff, just becasue people need sooooo much time to understand - everything, not just cars of course...
      • 1 Month Ago
      " something that explains how amazing this Volt is (and it really is an amazing vehicle) "

      For $42,000.00. it ought to be f-in amazing. It also ought to give sex on demand, because at that price, you sure are being screwed.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Good Editorial. But you may be reading too much into this, the first ad for Volt. We suspect that the next flurry of ads will be touting Volt's whiz-bang features, and gas saving benefits.

      Chevy clearly wants to let the public know the MAIN feature of Volt: it is an EXTENDED RANGE vehicle. It does NOT have to be recharged when the battery is drained. It does everything a regular gas powered car does - and then some. Ultimately this puts to sleep public fear of short range electric vehicles. This may even play well for Leaf. Volt is an EV with the range of a gas car. THAT is what they want to emphasize in the first wave of advertising.

      The fact you may never choose to put gas in the vehicle - is yet to be explained.
        • 1 Month Ago
        So the "the MAIN feature of Volt" is that it is capable of burning gasoline in its gasoline engine taken from a foriegn economy car and getting mid-30's gas mileage.
      • 1 Month Ago
      I completely agree that GM's anti-EV rhetoric is lame and shortsighted. In fact, I've been on GM's case for awhile about this -- http://solarchargeddriving.com/editors-blog/on-evs-a-phevs/460-is-the-volt-the-anti-ev-ev.html

      I'd like to have a one EV + one PHEV/EREV garage. We'll be starting with the pure EV (probably a LEAF), because we want to begin with a 100-percent gas-free and home solar-system charged car (yes, our LEAF will be 100-percent powered by solar!).

      Eventually, we want one PHEV/EREV as well for the rare occasions where we'll be driving more than 100 miles. That car could be a Volt. But if GM keeps it up with the anti-EV rhetoric, I'm very likely going to go elsewhere for our PHEV/EREV. Of course, the Prius PHEV, at 13 miles of pure electric, isn't going to cut it for us.

      C'mon GM, can't you see that there are a lot of households like ours, with plenty of room for one pure EV AND one EREV -- stop turning us off!
        • 1 Month Ago
        If you think GM advertising the advantages of their vehicle over pure EVs is a turn-off, then you better looking elsewhere now.

        No company when faced with a competitor that is better as an EV and costs less would fail to advertise their sole advantage as GM is doing here. So I don't see GM pleasing you any time soon.
        • 1 Month Ago
        I think you're wrong. But we'll have to wait and see if Toyota, Ford, Nissan and others who build ICEs, PHEVs, and EVs feel that it's necessary to undercut their own products in order to promote one of them. I will emphasize again, that there are a lot of people out there who want an EV and a PHEV, and turning off these people makes no marketing sense. I disagree that GM's only/best approach is to set itself apart from pure EVs, there are so many other ways to pitch the Volt, rather than in opposition to something else.
        • 1 Month Ago
        cdmonth:
        This ad doesn't mention EVs or the Leaf at all. And yet you still say it slams EVs. So I guess no mention of positive aspects is allowed.

        So here's the challenge for you:
        Give us an ad campaign that doesn't mention anything about how the Volt is good at things that any other car isn't good at.
      • 1 Month Ago
      EVs will not constitute a large part of the marketplace soon, so turning off 3% of the people to garner a larger share is not necessarily a bad idea.

      Besides, when EVs come along later they can just say "EVs got better, so we offer one now". They won't be the only company doing so. Look at the performance car companies talking about hybrids and such now.

      Besides, without charging stations, EVs aren't viable for a lot of people. GM is correct about this. When there are charging stations in place, they will work with the Volt.

      Bragging about taking two weeks to go from Detroit to Washington D.C? Are you kidding me? If you brag about doing that in an automoblie or on a motorcycle you just look like an idiot to everyone but the far-hardcode EV faithful. Even Ed Begley, Jr. broke down and bought a Prius after owning only EVs for a decade.

      Finally, I don't see how "more car than electric" is denigrating to electric cars. That's not to say GM hasn't denigrated EVs, but this slogan merely says that you are getting the upside of electric without the downside. And what's wrong with that? For every person willing to put up with the limitations of EVs, there is at least one who doesn't. And this can help capture that person as a customer.

      Don't make the mistake that was made last time around with the EV1. Just because the EV is for you doesn't mean it's for everyone. So trying to shame people into buying one just isn't the way.
        • 1 Month Ago
        How is it better than a gas-only car?

        The only way I can think of is it has some electric range to it. And this is mentioned in the ad "25-50 miles of electric driving in moderate conditions".

        All the other advantages, simplicity, reduced maintenance, etc. are all out the window with the Volt. And it costs a lot.

        I do not think people will flock to it. I wish I did. GM has a hard road ahead of them trying to sell this car, IMHO.
        • 1 Month Ago
        "getting the upside of electric without the downside"
        Please point out where GM is selling ANY upside of electric in their ads!?!

        GM has a unique world-beating car in its Volt plug-in hybrid, the first ever. That should let them get thousands of conquest sales, where people who've never considered a Chevrolet will buy this because THERE IS NO OTHER COMPARABLE CAR. Instead they're telling everyone how it's "better than an electric car." GM, how about telling us how "it's better than a gas-only car"?!
      • 1 Month Ago
      Considering that the $14.4 Billion in DOE government funds that GM is trying to get and counts on for their IPO projections will have more business impact than the Volt, it is really short sighted. There is not enough money to fund GM and Chrysler DOE requests (much less other manufacturers). Why would you give taxpayer money to a company under the banner of funding R&D in electric cars (even though the majority will be used for gasoline cars) when they bash the electric cars? More importantly, why SHOULD we give them that taxpayer money when they bash electric cars? Haven't the taxpayers given them enough money?

      The Volt plug-in hybrid is money-losing limited production marketing ploy. The development cost was less than 1/10th of the money they are seeking from the DOE. To risk losing billions in federal funding to promote a halo vehicle is really short sighted.
        • 1 Month Ago
        The DoE is currently giving $2B (and about $1B more each year) to Ford to put 360HP "Eco"boosts into family sedans and minivan-alikes. The goal is supposed to be better fuel efficiency and Ford is using it (for the most part) to further a power war.

        So I don't think the DoE is going to blink when faced with a company making an EREV and then advertising its advantages.
      • 1 Month Ago
      GM exists today because the US taxpayers paid for it to exist, and it will make up the majority of the money lost in TARP (banks largely are repaying the govt.). GM left toxic waste sites behind that the taxpayers are paying to clean up: projected to be the largest government-funded environmental cleanup. And GM is asking for tax dollars to fund its R&D (the majority of the DOE program and more than is projected to be raised by the IPO, even though the IPO depends on the loans).

      Whether it is legally binding or not, GM has a responsibility to all US taxpayers who have paid for them to exist, will pay to clean up after them and are being asked to pay to support their future. It angers me that my tax dollars are going to GM to mislead people and try to undermine electric vehicles. Using FUD to undermine true electric vehicles will leave this country falling behind the rest of the world. For example: recent surveys in France have 70% of the population ready to have electric for their next car and 86% think that the commercialization of electric vehicles should be pushed more heavily. If we let GM have their way, America's auto market will be as broken as FUD campaigns made its healthcare system.
        • 1 Month Ago
        lne937s:
        'Well if you are looking for the untruthful part, start with them calling their hybrid an EV'

        It drives for 25-50 miles on electricity. It is an EV in that mode.

        If Nissan is so hot on connecting the entire country with quick chargers, why is the quick charging port optional on their car and not even available on the lower end model? It's also not retrofittable!

        Here is the map of CHADeMo (quick) chargers in Japan. Tell me how they've connected the entire country:

        http://maps.google.co.jp/maps/ms?hl=ja&ie=UTF8&msa=0&msid=112525875866477710528.00046af5cf154a5f70efc&brcurrent=3,0x34674e0fd77f192f:0xf54275d47c665244,0&ll=36.668419,135.966797&spn=11.165923,13.271484&z=6

        There are significant limitations to short-range EVs right now. Even long-range EVs have limitations. Trying to lay the cause for this on GM is ludicrous.
        • 1 Month Ago
        Oh, EVsuperhero. You're right about Whitacre. He definitely was wrong. Let's face it, he's not a car guy, he doesn't even understand what he's saying when he speaks of them. He'll be gone soon anyway.
        • 1 Month Ago
        Well if you are looking for the untruthful part, start with them calling their hybrid an EV...

        Their inferrence in this ad about EV's not having range to work for people and their previous statements about not being able to get a sick kid to the hospital are where the FUD is...

        And Nissan's plan is not based on renting another car-- that's just a temporary patch for the small portion of the country in single car households. They plan to connect the entire country with quick chargers through partnerships and at their dealers as soon as we settle on a standard, like they have already done in Japan and are currently doing in several European countries.
        • 1 Month Ago
        How is having the ability to drive beyond the range of a car's EV capabilities FUD? It's true and therefore not FUD.

        If the Volt was an EV with a range of 25-50 miles, it would need to charge for 4-8 hours before driving further That would kill sales if true. This ad tells the consumer that this will never occur because we installed a backup. How is that FUD? It has backup for when you need it -its a security blanket, training wheels.

        Did I miss the untruthful part? The ad never claims that EVs are inherently evil, just that they provide an EV with a backup plan. That's it. I cant get my head around why you guys are so fired up.

        I dont see how this ad in any way attacks the Leaf or any EV. If anything it undermines the Volt itself by admitting 40 miles is not enough meet all your needs - so when you need it - dont worry, we have you covered.

        Nissan knows this is a concern as well (range). While 100+ miles is more than enough for most every situation there will be time the owner needs more. Nissan is dispelling this by offering free rental cars to owners for those situations.

        Two different solutions to the same legit question:

        "What do I do when I need to go farther than the range of my EV (40 miles for Volt and 100+ for Leaf)? "

        GMs solution - use gas and continue driving, you need to do nothing different than you do now except plug the car in at night, no planning needed. Nissan solution - plan ahead and we will let you use one of our ICE cars to go the extra distance when needed.

        • 1 Month Ago
        Here is a quote from Whitacre CEO of GM in 2010. "The Volt is the only car to go coast to coast on electricity". He lied through his teeth. The lies and distortion start from the top down at GM. GM assured president Obama they would make a EV. They lied again, putting a battery in a gas car is not a EV no matter how GM spins it.

        Like the Wall Street bankers GM has not changed a bit after the tax payers took pity on them and bailed them out. They still lobby against EV's every chance they get, they still make commercials that make EV's look bad but at least they are not selling a EV this time while doing it. The only time they speak well of EV's is when they have their hand out begging for more support from the US government.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Countdown for the first aftermarket range extender for Leaf ( either a trunk installed or a trailed ) starts now.

      • 1 Month Ago
      GM emphasizing what their car does better than other cars is not going negative. It's not a crime against humanity. And the only reason any of you even care is that you are concerned that someone out there might not buy an EV, and you want everyone to buy an EV. I don't see people whining on here that Nissan isn't talking up the range advantage of a Jetta TDI, do you?

      This is the same junk that went on with the EV1. GM informed people the limitations of the car and many people backed out of buying it. So the EV proponents claimed GM was un-selling people on the car.

      We should sell EVs to people who want them and people who can use them. Lying to them, withholding information about them or otherwise trying to shame people who aren't interested in EVs into buying on is NOT a long term good idea. If you put a vehicle with limitations in to the wrong hands, they won't like it and they will be turned off.

      If you sell a 2 seater to a person who needs 4, what happens? If you sell a high-riding SUV to a person who need sportiness, what happens? If you sell an EV to a person who thinks they don't want one, what is going to happen the first time they have to turn back or flatbed their vehicle due to range? They're going to say "told you so" and be turned off.

      Stop being EV-nazis. Stop trying to force things onto others. The presence of good EVs will be the biggest factor in creating more EV buyers. And the Leaf fits the bill and will be out there. And it's Nissan's job to tell them what's so great about an EV. It's not GM's job to sell Nissan's car for them.
        • 1 Month Ago
        Which part didn't people say?

        People on here most definitely said GM is going negative by advertising how their car is better. People on here most definitely complained that the concern is that people might not buy EVs, without any regard for the idea as to whether they SHOULD buy EVs.
        • 1 Month Ago
        We aren't trying force anything on anyone. We all recognize that electric cars aren't for everyone. We just recognize when a company is undermining progress to toward EV's.

        The Volt is basically the EV Anti-Christ

        Posing as an EV, using lies and distortions to try to make it look like they are trying to get us off oil, but really serving to undermine true electric vehicles while greenwashing gas guzzlers. It would be bad enough if they were transparent and just made a Silverado commercial attacking EV's. However, when they falsely pose as an EV, confuse people, get people to let their guards down and then try to undermine true electric vehicles, it is like a Trojan horse attacking electric cars. Luckily, GM is weak enough that they probably can't kill them this time
        • 1 Month Ago
        jake:
        Compared to gas cars, the Volt isn't a good choice. It costs more in total ownership and it doesn't drive better.

        The only thing it really has is it can drive without gas and then after that drive with it. That's what Chevy is covering, and for some reason you see it as anti-Leaf.

        GM's ads do not mention the Leaf, they're not trying to reduce the appeal. If you want to drive short distances, get a Leaf. The Volt isn't as good as the Leaf at short distances, and the Leaf isn't as good as the Volt at long ones. And there's nothing wrong with saying this.

        I disagree the ad starts by assuming you know why an EREV is good. I think they are starting slowly, trying to not show the car as an EV, so they aren't featuring the electric side first. Give it some time, they will have to do so, as they have no other way to justify the high price of the car.

        And so what if it did start by assuming you understand EREVs? That's stil not anti-EV.

        The ad is simply saying this car has a long range. Yes, that's saying it's better for long range driving than short range cars. The only problem here is ABG has a stiffy for a particular short range car and they don't like to see another car being portrayed as better than it in some ways. Well, too bad.

        I do agree the comments posted from GM people here are anti-EV. But these are not the ads, and as the editorial says it is about GM's advertising, they are irrelevant to the topic at hand. Furthermore, these are one-time comments, if GM wanted to change their story, they would simply not repeat them, which they haven't, and not put them in their ads, which they haven't. It's only ABG keeping them alive. If putting those messages out there is the problem, then perhaps ABG should consider not printing them over and over!
        • 1 Month Ago
        Completely agree with you man, and yes a lot of you are forcing EV's down peoples throat and this article clearly shows that mentality.

        They're not bashing EV's, if stating the truth is bashing then I don't know what to tell you. All GM is saying is their electric vehicle can travel a lot farther than any one else EV.

        And no they're not shooting them selves in the foot, they're breaking open the EV market yet all of you are screaming over technicalities.
        • 1 Month Ago
        I just disagree with you on this one. Just my opinion, but I do not like the way GM is handling this market.

        They talk about spontaneity yet they have zero advantage over ICE cars here. That is clearly aimed at the EV market. They talk nothing about the advantages of the car compared to ICE. Are you telling me that the average person is not ready to understand a concept like: You can reduce your monthly gas bill by 90%? You can stop sending money out of our economy to buy foreign oil and instead use good ol American made electricity? You can drive a car that's better for the environment? You can drive electric every day and when you really need it...keep on going?

        No, they didn't mention any of those are concepts which the average person can easily understand.

        They took aim at EVs and are doing a subtle job of pushing range anxiety. Why? Because that is the mindset of the people who influence these decisions at GM.

        No, he didn't write the script for the commercial, but do you really think he has no voice in selecting the themes: " Micky Bly, General Motors' executive director for hybrid electric vehicles and batteries, dismissed EVs by saying that it would take 28 days to drive from Detroit to Florida in an electric car. "

        How many other GM execs are saying the same kind of things? Do you really think it doesn't influence their marketing?

        I simply disagree with you on this one.
        • 1 Month Ago
        Dude...that is one enormous strawman. Nobody here said any of that.
        • 1 Month Ago
        I don't see anyone here trying to "force" EVs on anyone. We're just critiquing the Volt ad strategy, which, rather than relying on what you suggest Nissan should be doing -- which is selling its own product as the the best, unique on its own merits -- is instead relying on an 'anti'-approach to sell itself --> 'Buy me, the Volt, because I am NOT the LEAF, or any other pure EV.' That's very different from: 'Buy me, the Volt, because I am an outstanding vehicle that you absolutely have to have because I'm so great for this reason, this reason, and this reason.'

        The point is that the Volt doesn't need to go anti-EV to sell itself, but GM has decided to sell the Volt that way anyway.
        • 1 Month Ago
        It isn't anti-EV. It's pro-EREV.

        This is an electric car with the range of a gas car. That's what the ad says.

        Does it mention EVs? Does it mention the Leaf? It's not explicitly anti-EV, it is merely giving reasons why a person might want this car. If you don't want to have to say "honey, can you come pick me up in the gas car, because I drove the Leaf to work but now we're going to swing by the next city over after work", then get this car. That's what it's saying, because that's what the Volt does well.

        So what's wrong with a person buy the Volt? Nothing. The only downside is that might mean they won't buy a Leaf, which just doesn't sit well with people on here.

        '[cause] THREE "ordinary Americans" to not buy an EV or to put it off for another generation, then they are NOT helping us get off oil. They are damaging this country.'

        It's right there in black and white, a statement that by GM trying to sell their car, they are hurting us all. Well, it's not GM's job to sell people on a Leaf. Let Nissan do it. There are a lot of people a Leaf is good for, let Nissan seek them out and sell them on one.
        • 1 Month Ago
        Analogies like the SUV doesn't really work, because we aren't talking an existing category that that everyone has tried. We are talking about EVs, which a lot of people have uncertainty and fear in even approaching (not necessarily rationally), re-enforced by ads like this one.

        In their first attempt at selling an "electric car" they are already appealing to range anxiety. They have done nothing in this ad to explain what is the advantage of a plug-in. Just talks about freedom, which doesn't show why this is better than a gas car. It starts with a clear assumption the audience knows all the benefits of a plug-in.

        And we are not saying GM should help Nissan sell the Leaf, we are talking about GM actively trying to reduce the appeal of the Leaf, while depending on Nissan to tell the public why a plug-in makes sense, giving Nissan the bulk of the work. If instead GM approached it by telling the public why the Volt is a better choice compared to other gasoline cars (which is easily 90+% of the market right now), just like Nissan is doing with the Leaf, then the the overall market will expand instead of contract.
      • 1 Month Ago
      "attacking EVs in 2010, but it is totally shooting the GM of 2020". Really?

      Ultimately, if the product is good, nobody will care (except for some geeks in the blogosphere). Seriously, do you think people will avoid the Plug-in Prius because Toyota bad-mouthed the idea a few years ago?

      Another business analogy: Disney was hostile to and 'attacked' Pixar for quite some time a few years ago. I'm sure now that Pixar has been bought by Big Bad Disney, nobody will watch any Pixar movies any more, right? Oh, wait, "Toy Story 3" is Pixar/Disney's highest grossing film of all time.

      It really doesn't matter that much what a company says 5 or 10 years ago - all that matters is the quality of the current product and the marketing. For 2010 this ad is good marketing by GM, and will let people feel un-constrained by the concept of a (mostly) electric car. In 2020, I'm sure you'll see a completely different product, and perhaps marketing that contradicts that advertisments of 2010. Who cares?
        • 1 Month Ago
        Audi 1999: "We'll never make an SUV. Buy an allroad. Never follow."
        Audi 2004: "Buy our Q7 SUV."
        Audi 2008: "Buy our Q5 SUV."

        And how did it come out? Well, the Q5 is a good product, so people are buying it. They're not holding back just because of Audi's position 10 years ago.
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