Thursday 24 December 2009

Special-edition Hyundai i10, i20 & i30 launched (UK)

A series of new special-edition Hyundai models will arrive in 2010, bringing upgraded styling and equipment to the i10, i20 and i30 ranges.

Prices for the new models – all called Edition – start at £8,425 for a 1.1 litre i10 and run to £14,700 for the 1.6 CRDi i30.

At the top of the range, the i30 Edition has a sporty look and the choice of petrol or diesel engines, with prices from £13,400. Standard equipment includes alloy wheels, sports pedals, remote central locking and 4 electric windows, while an engine stop-start system is a £200 option.

The i20 Edition comes with the 1.2 litre petrol engine, in both 3 & 5dr bodies, and with a choice of two optional exterior colours. Costing from £10,565, it has half-leather seat trim, air conditioning and remote central locking.

The cheapest of the new Edition models is the i10, which comes with a 1.1 litre petrol engine and alloy wheels, side mouldings and front fog-lights, air-conditioning and electric windows. Thanks to its 119g/km CO2 emissions, its annual road tax will cost just £35.

Next Seat Exeo will be bespoke

SEAT’s next-generation Exeo will be less dependent on VW Group technology and be more of a bespoke SEAT product, according to a company source. The current Exeo is basically a previous-generation Audi A4 and was born out of SEAT’s desire to get a saloon car to market quickly under former president, who used to work for Audi, Erich Schmitt.

But our source confirmed that SEAT would eventually replace the Exeo with a car that was more of a bespoke Seat product.

“The current Exeo was a very good solution to our desire to get a saloon to market very quickly,” said the source. “We needed to be in that segment and the old A4 was the best option, but its replacement will be very much a Seat product, relying less on VW Group technology.”

The source didn’t put a timescale on when the next Exeo would be launched but they did confirm it would be developed at its Martorell facility in Spain. They also said that SEAT had no plans to repeat what it did with the Exeo on other models.

The source compared the next Exeo to the current-generation Skoda Superb. The second-generation Superb was heavily reliant on borrowing from the Volkswagen Passat but the current model is much more of a bespoke Skoda product.

Entry-level Volkswagen Scirocco introduced (UK)

A new entry-level Volkswagen Scirocco will go on sale 4th January priced from £18,860 – £800 less than the current entry-level model.

The new car will be powered by a 121bhp 1.4 litre petrol engine, quite the opposite to the current entry-level model, which has a 158bhp engine. The new model’s 0-62mph time of 9.7 seconds is almost two seconds slower than the more powerful car’s but its CO2 emissions of 146g/km make it the cleanest petrol-engined model in the Scirocco range. The 121bhp car also returns 44.1mpg – better than the 158bhp car’s 42.8mpg with the same six-speed manual gearbox.

Standard equipment includes a 6-CD autochanger, air-conditioning, 17” alloy wheels, stability control and 6 airbags. Adaptive Chassis Control, which tailors the car's suspension to suit different road conditions, is a £765 option.

Volkswagen has also announced a new optional styling pack for GT models. The £950 Lugano Black package includes 19" alloys finished in gloss black as well as extra Piano Black inserts in the cabin.

Facelifted Maybach uber-limo confirmed

Mercedeas boss, Dieter Zetsche has admitted that the super-luxury Maybach saloon will be facelifted next year - but he refused to confirm that a next-generation car was being planned, adding to rumours that the brand is being axed. Test mules of the facelifted model were spied eariler on this year.

"The contribution of Maybach is not significant or relevant but there are only two players in this market and we are one of them – referring to Rolls-Royce. But there are no plans in the long run," he said. Zetsche also revealed that he thinks that luxury buyers' tastes are changing towards more "discreet and subtle luxury".

North East to get first Nissan LEAF electric cars in Spring 2011 (UK)

Nissan has signed a contact with development agency, One North East that will help to strengthen the North East of England as the UK’s national centre for developing ultra-low-carbon vehicles. Under the agreement, One North East has agreed to install at least 619 charging points by the start of 2011, with electricity provided free of charge until the end of March 2012 or until an itemised billing service is available.

It has already installed two charging points for public use in the car park at its head office. The agency will also work with other companies in the area to create at least 200 free dedicated public parking spaces by November 2010, as well as introducing preferential access to certain roads and areas.

The agreement also sets commitments on incentives for drivers, as well as education and demonstration initiatives to be introduced over the next two years. At the same time, Nissan has also agreed to supply LEAF cars to the region in early 2011 and to give priority to orders for the car from the North East.

The forthcoming LEAF EV is billed as the world's first affordable, zero-emissions car. Using lithium-ion battery, the LEAF has a range of more than 100 miles (160kms). The LEAF will launch in Japan Winter 2010 with U.S and European launches happening in Spring 2011.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Can a Volvo travel 827 miles on one tank of diesel?

That's the million dollar question in the fuel economy test. Two middle-aged men, Dom Jolly and Rufus Hound made a trip from the Volvo UK HQ in Marlow, Buckinghamshire to Milano, Italy and back again. Why? It's a journey about friendship and fuel economy, primarily the latter.

The car used is a 2009 Volvo V70 DRIVe which is powered by a 1.6 litre turbo-charged diesel engine, producing 109PS. Fuel economy is rated at 57.7mpg combined with a CO2 output of 129g/km. Prices start at £23,245.

The two part video can be viewed here.

Saturday 19 December 2009

Mercedes to be flexible with right-hand drive markets

Mercedes has promised to be 'fully flexible' with its next generation of cars so that anything available in left-hand-drive models can also be fitted for right-hand drive markets like hybrid technology and 4-Matic.

'We know we have maybe not done enough in the past, but in future there will be no restrictions,' said Dr Thomas Weber, the company's head of research and development. The head of Mercedes UK, Wilfried Steffen said with the next generation of cars, you will be able to have everything. We will prepare our vehicles for all markets.'

For many years, British buyers have been without the 4-Matic available on many cars sold in Europe and America because it was never engineered to fit into right-hand-drive models. The GLK compact SUV is not sold here for the same reason. That left Mercedes UK missing a rival for the BMW X3, Land Rover Freelander, Infiniti EX, Cadillac SRX and Audi Q5, as well as a series of cars that could compete with Audi's Quattro range.

The change of heart is particularly important with greater hybridisation of the range on the way. With countries all around the world targeting lower fuel consumption and CO2, none would want to miss out on technology that could help achieve those goals.

Dr Weber says there will be a hybrid version of every Mercedes 'above the C-Class', so that includes the E-Class, GL-Class, GLK, SLK, SL-Class and Viano and the flagship S-Class – at the Frankfurt show last Autumn the company announced it would offer a 90mpg, 74g/km hybrid version of the next-generation model, but that's at least two years away. A S-Class hybrid is already available.

In the meantime, the current car is to get a 4 cylinder diesel engine because of demand from markets where there are CO2-related motoring taxes. This will be badged S300 CDI and will be powered by a high-power version of the company's 2.2 litre turbo-diesel engine. Despite the relatively small capacity, it shouldn't be short of muscle – Dr Weber promises it will deliver 370lb ft of torque.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Price of diesel cars set to soar (UK)

If you think the premium for diesel cars is expensive now, wait until 2015 – when it will run into many thousands of pounds.

That's the prediction of Dr Thomas Weber, head of Group Research and Mercedes-Benz cars development, who says diesel vehicles will need expensive adaptation to meet Euro VI emissions standards being introduced in 2015. The move to Euro V emissions standards has already added costs to the production of diesel cars, with the need for costly fuel injectors and, in many cases, particulate filters.

Weber says: 'Exhaust treatment for Euro VI will add thousands to the cost of diesels in the factory. If, as a manufacturer, you want to be the market leader, you'll need to have a hybrid, too, which will add thousands more.'

The costs that diesel-car production will have to absorb means alternatively fuelled vehicles, such as Mercedes' B-Class F-Cell hydrogen fuel-cell will become more affordable when compared with diesel-powered vehicles.

Although questions remain over the production, transportation and storage of hydrogen, Weber says: 'We are deeply convinced it's an important technology and the right way forward.' While Weber does not rule out other technology, he believes that, in the long term, hydrogen will become cheaper than fossil fuels.

He predicts hydrogen will eventually fall from €8 to stabalise at around €3 (£2.70) a kilo which is enough to travel approximately 60 miles. There are no immediate plans to bring the fuel cell Mercedes to the UK, but 100 customers will soon lease the new Smart Electric Drive in this country.

The Smart is another strand of Weber's future fuel strategy.

2009 BMW X1, which is sold strictly with a diesel engine in the UK

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Mini E trials kick-off (UK)

The Mini E electric car trial kicked off in Oxford yesterday as 40 customers picked up their cars from the factory. The first phase of the project will run for 6 months and is designed to evaluate the psychological, social and technical aspects of living with an electric car.

More than 500 people applied to take part in the trial through Mini's website, and the 40 successful applicants (hailed as 'the pioneers' by Mini) have all had special charging points fitted at their homes.

Every Mini E is fitted with a data-logger, with the information collected over the coming 6 months by Oxford Brookes University, and then shared with governments and other car makers across the globe. The aim is to improve the design and the infrastructure of electric cars.

The Mini E is based on the Mini hatchback, but it has just two seats because the space usually reserved for rear passengers is needed to store batteries.

The 35kWh lithium-ion battery powers a 201bhp electric motor, so performance is impressive. In fact, the 'E' accelerates faster than a petrol-powered Mini Cooper, even though it weighs around 300kg more. If you charge it at home, the overall CO2 impact equates to roughly 68g/km.

That's around half the CO2 emitted by a 1.25 litre Ford Fiesta and will reduce over time as more of the UK's electricity is generated from renewable energy sources, such as wind- and solar power.

BMW charges £550 a month for every Mini E, but thanks to a helping hand from the Government's Technology Strategy Board, each of the 40 UK customers has to find only £330 a month. That's about the same cost as leasing a Volkswagen Golf, and includes all servicing, insurance and maintenance bills.

The only other cost to Mini E drivers is for the electricity and, by charging it overnight at home, that equates to about a penny a mile – that's £1.50 for a full charge from empty. During peak hours, the cost rises to about £4.00.

To sign up for the second stage of the trial – due to start in mid 2010 – log on to

About the Mini E:

Top speed – 95mph (electronically limited)

0-62mph in 8.5 seconds

Maximum range – 155 miles

Charge time – 4.5 hours

Power – 201bhp

Torque – 162lb/ft

Battery – 35kWh, Lithium-ion

Weight – 1,465kg

Ford Focus & C-Max recalled (EU)

Ford is recalling 30,000 of its Focus and C-Max models in the UK because of a safety problem.

The American car maker has warned salt from gritted roads could damage its cooling system and cause the engine to catch fire. The safety recall affects all 1.8 litre and 2.0 litre Ford Focus and C-Max TDCi diesel models built between 20th February 2004 – 31st May 2006.

The problem was first identified in the Summer, but many owners are only now receiving recall letters. The Winter gritting season has also made it more urgent for owners to react. Ford said there was a risk of corrosion build-up in the cooling system from salt and grit put on roads during the Winter months. Recalled vehicles will be fitted with a water shield to prevent the car's fan control module from corrosion.

Owners are being urged to book their car in for a short service free of charge. Up to 65,000 models could be affected in Europe, with 29,451 of them in the UK.

Owners who are unsure whether their car is affected or not can call the Ford customer relationships centre on 0845 841 111.

Bentley Mulsanne pricing announced (UK/U.S)

Bentley's flagship Mulsanne begins production at the Crewe plant next Spring 2010. First deliveries of the Mulsanne will happen in Summer 2010 in the UK, while U.S deliveries will begin in fall. The Mulsanne has a £220,000 price-tag and that’s before you start adding in your options. For the U.S, the MSRP of $285,000 excludes taxes and delivery charges. Over 1,000 potential customers from the Europe and the U.S have been given a live preview of the car.

Said to be the most luxurious Bentley ever built, the Mulsanne puts its occupants in the very cusp of luxury motoring. Buyers will be offered a choice of 114 paint colours or a unique colour of their own making, 21 carpet colours, 24 interior leather hides tanned using a decade-old process and a total of 9 wood veneers. It takes about 9 weeks to complete one Mulsanne from scratch.

Though classic in its general approach, the uber-limo will also get very modern features such as Bluetooth connectivity, SIM card reader, iPod connection, 3G MMI system and what Bentley says is the world's most powerful sound system installed in a production car – a 20 channel 2,200w mobile music station.

Power is supplied by a lightweight 6.75 litre twin-turbo V8 producing 500bhp and 1,000Nm (740 lb-ft) of torque. It comes with a cylinder de-activation and variable cam phasing feature to help cut fuel consumption and C02 emissions.

Saturday 12 December 2009

2010 Vauxhall Astra officially launched (UK)

Opel’s UK division, Vauxhall is celebrating the retail launch of the all-new 2010 Astra yesterday as the first customers who placed their orders soon after the model went on sale in September received the keys to their cars.

In the UK, the new Astra hatchback is available with five petrol engines ranging from an 87PS 1.4 litre to a 1.6 litre turbocharged petrol unit producing 180 PS, while diesels span from 110 to 160 PS in either a 1.7 CDTi or 2.0 CDTi engine.

Prices start from £15,675 for the entry-level S model. ESP, 6 airbags, DRL’s (daytime running lights), 16” steel wheels, air conditioning, driver’s seat height adjustment, 60/40 split folding rear seats, electric front windows, electrically/heated door mirrors and high and reach adjustable steering wheel all come as standard.

Exclusiv trim adds cruise control, steering wheel mounted audio controls and ambient lighting which comes in at £16,450, adding £775 over the S model.

Sports orientated SRi trim-level adds Exclusiv equipment, plus electric parking brake, front fog lights, sports front seats, lowered sports suspension, 3 spoke leather steering wheel, darkened headlamps, trip computer and ambient interior lighting. Starting at £17,565, it adds an £1,115 premium.

SE – set to be the biggest seller is priced at £18,850. The £2,400 premium over the Exclusiv trim adds 17” 10 spoke alloy wheels, 3 spoke sports leather steering wheel, electric rear windows, electric parking brake, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front fog lights, automatic windscreen wipers & front headlamps, trip computer, alarm, chrome window surrounds, front armrest, illuminated vanity mirrors and Flex floor luggage compartment.

Elite is the plushest Astra trim-level. Starting at £19,830 (£980 over the SE), Elite features perforated leather seats w/ heat function & part-electric driver’s seat, climate control w/ humidity control, rear armrest and electric folding door mirrors.

Options include xenon headlamps w/ LED DRL’s (AFL – adaptive forward lighting), metallic & pearlescent paints, alloy wheels, parking sensors, climate control, DAB radio, satellite navigation system, Bluetooth, FlexRide, electric folding door mirrors, Infinity premium sound system and tyre pressure monitoring system.

The company said that initially, Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port plant will build the new Astra for all European markets. The UK will take the biggest market with around 25% of all production headed to British buyers.

If you’re in Australia and you want one of these, think again. The Delta II based Chevrolet Cruze will be available instead, as a Holden.

Friday 11 December 2009

Toyota Hilux pricing announced (UK)

Toyota has upgraded its Toyota Hilux pickup to offer better performance, lower carbon emissions and more equipment.

Its 2.5 litre D-4D diesel engine gets a 20% increase in power and extra torque. Maximum output has been increased from 118 to 142bhp and peak torque – at 2,000rpm, is now 252lb-ft - up by 13lb-ft. Toyota has introduced a high-output turbocharger and new fuel injectors to improving throttle response and performance. To cope with the extra power, the pistons have been upgraded to a new high-strength material.

The new Hilux is due to go on sale in Spring 2010. The Hilux accelerates from 0- 62mph in 12.5 seconds - an improvement of 2.5 seconds - and emissions are now at 217g/km. Increases in Hilux's gross vehicle weights have yielded improvements in payload performance, notably for Double Cab models where capacity has increased by 35kg on the HL2 Double Cab and 25kg on the HL3 Double Cab. The high-power 3.0 litre D-4D diesel engine is now available exclusively in the Invincible Double Cab. This has carbon emissions of 219g/km.

Leather upholstery and satellite navigation with Bluetooth are now options on the Invincible, and two grey upholstery cloths have been introduced. There is also a new two-tone leather option for the Invincible.

Satellite navigation with Bluetooth is offered as an option on the HL3 Double Cab. A Sport Deck and an Urban Pack (front guard, scuff plates and front and rear parking sensors) are available for both the HL3 and Invincible Double Cabs.

Prices start at £17,380.75 for the base HL2 Single Cab, rising to £23,590.75 for the flagship Invincible model with the 3.0 litre D4-D engine.

Click here for more information.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Citroen C3 pricing announced (UK)

Citroen UK has revealed prices on the all-new C3 supermini. Bigger, quirkier and more refined than before, the new C3 supermini will start from £10,790 for the entry-level VT 1.1i petrol model.

All models will have a 5 speed manual as standard, except the 1.6 HDi 110bhp which comes with a 6 speed manual. The 1.6 VTi 120bhp can be specified with a 4 speed automatic. With co-efficient drag of Cd 0.30, fuel economy of 74mpg combined can be achieved. At 3.94m long, the new C3 is 5cm shorter than the Clio.

Aston Martin Rapide pricing announced (UK/U.S)

Aston Martin's Rapide will be launched early next year, with prices starting from £139,950. A 470bhp with 600Nm version of Aston Martin's 6.0 litre V12 engine should allow it to blend supercar performance with its limousine credentials. Top speed is 188mph.

Standard UK equipment includes standard specification including: Bang & Olufsen sound system tailored specifically for Rapide, heated memory seats, dual cast brakes and Adaptive Damping System.

As Aston Martin's first production four-door sports car, the Rapide has been designed to blend extra practicality with the company's trademark sports-car dynamics.

The cars are being built at Aston Martin's Rapide factory in Graz, Austria. Each car will take around 220 hours to create. Orders are being taken now, for deliveries from April.

Across the pond however, the Rapide will start at $199,950 in the United States. The Rapide will take on the Porsche Panamera, although the Turbo variant starts at $132,600.

Monday 7 December 2009

New Car: 2010 BMW 5 Series

BMW has unveiled pictures, prices and specifications for its all-new sixth-generation 5 Series saloon.

Some 37 years on since the first 5 Series first went on sale, the new car is set to be heralded as a technological tour de force when it launches in Europe on the 20th March. Right hand drive BMW 5 Series’ will arrive a few weeks later. BMW UK is stressing the vitally of the new model since the new E-Class is outselling the current 5 Series.

Top of the technological highlights is stop/start technology on all models and the new 8 speed automatic – a first for BMW. The 5 Series will also boast the highest level of standard specification ever while carrying over some of the key features like double wishbone suspension and a 50:50 weight distribution.

A wide range of engines will be offered with the new model, with four petrols ranging from the 201bhp 523i to the mighty 401bhp 550i. On the diesel side, initially, there will be just three models to choose from: the 182bhp 520d, the 204bhp 525d and the 242bhp 530d.

The biggest seller in the UK is expected to remain the 520d that majors in efficiency. Despite boasting a healthy 182bhp and being able to sprint to 62mph in 8.1 seconds before topping out at 141mph the 2.0 litre diesel can return 56.5mpg while emitting 132g/km of CO2. However, a eco variant of the 2.0 litre diesel engine is expected to bow at the forthcoming Geneva motorshow.

The mid-ranged 525d boasts 204bhp with a 0-62mph time of 7.2 seconds. Top speed is 147mph with combined fuel economy rated at 45.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 162g/km.

Flagship 242bhp 530d is capable of delivering 44.8mpg while emitting 166g/km of CO2. Fitted with either the new 8 speed auto or 6 speed manual, it hits the 62mph benchmark in just 6.3 seconds before topping out at a limited 155mph.

On the petrol front, there's the choice of three V6 engines. The entry-level 201bhp 523i, is the least powerful but can still sprint to 62mph in just 7.9 seconds before topping out at 148mph. At the pumps, the 523i averages 37.2mpg while emitting 177g/km of carbon dioxide.

Until the flagship M5 arrives, the 401bhp 550i petrol will be the fastest 5 Series money can buy. Thanks to its twin-turbo V8, the BMW hits 62mph 5.0 seconds before being electrically limited at 155mph. Despite its performance, the quickest 5-Series can average 27.2mpg while emitting 243g/km of CO2. To put it into context, the Mercedes E500 sedan has 387bhp mated to a 7 speed automatic gearbox. The E500 averages 26.2mpg with a CO2 rating of 265g/km.

For the first time, BMW 5 Series drivers are offered the option of Drive Dynamic Control that allows the option of four differing settings for the levels of steering assistance, throttle response, automatic gear changing ferocity and ESP intervention. All models come standard with leather upholstery and Bluetooth hands-free.

BMW also claims the new 5 Series has the longest wheelbase in its class, with a distance of 2,970mm between the front and rear wheels – which should mean good rear legroom.

New options include Park Assist that steers the BMW automatically into a car park space with the driver operating only the accelerator and brake pedals. Four-wheel Integral Active Steering can also be specified which reduces the car's turning circle by 0.5 metres. Meanwhile, the Surround View system uses cameras in the side mirrors and the front wheel arches in conjunction with Park Distance Control and the optional Reversing Assist camera to provide a 360 degree view on the iDrive display for perfect parking.

The BMW 5 Series is offered with a wealth of optional equipment to enhance safety, style and convenience.

An eight-speed automatic gearbox or an eight-speed Sport automatic transmission with Formula One-style steering wheel-mounted paddles, Variable Damper Control (VDC), adaptive drive package – Drive Dynamic Control (DDC) chassis configurator (allows for fine tuning of the chassis with the choice of Normal, Comfort, Sport and Sport+). Each mode changes the levels of steering assistance, throttle response, gear change characteristics, degree of Dynamic Stability Control interaction and, courtesy of adjustable dampers, the ride and handling characteristics, USB audio interface, ambient lighting, park assist, four-wheel Integral active steering, surround view system, park distance control, reversing assist camera, head-up display, night vision with pedestrian recognition, lane departure warning, lane change warning, speed limit info, two rear entertainment packages, BMW navigation, BMW ConnectedDrive, 19” alloy wheels, sport seats, anthracite headlining, sport leather steering wheel, high-gloss exterior trim, adaptive headlights, xenon headlights, high-beam assist and headlight wash are all optional.

Standard equipment includes auto start/stop, optimum gearshift indicator, brake energy regeneration, low rolling resistance tyres, electric power steering with Servotronic assistance for enhanced driving dynamics and comfort, leather upholstery, BMW Professional radio, Bluetooth telephone preparation and air-conditioning.

Prices for the cheapest 520d SE kicks off at £28,165 - £625 more than the outgoing car. Before you start questioning the price tag, BMW has put in £2k worth of kit that would otherwise be optional on the ’09 5 Series saloon. Prices stretch to £50,520 for the 550i, however, the E500 sedan undercuts the Beemer by £5,010 at £45,510.

Saturday 5 December 2009

Renault causes some serious uproar (FR)

Renault's decision to call it electric supermini Zoe has caused pandemonium in France.

Press report suggested that parents of children named Zoe have flooded the company with complaints and launched online petitions demanding the name be changed.

"Our daughters have a beautiful first name that must not be associated with a car, so let us unite to bring pressure on a multinational which is going to destroy this pretty name for a children," says a petition launched by Sebastien Mortreus, from Auby.

"It's a scandal that they are able to use common first names for products." Zoe is the 17th favourite girls name for newborns in France but Renault is unimpressed by the arguments and is sticking with the moniker.

"It is a name that evokes values of femininity, of youth, a playful spirit and vivacity..". "It is also a reference to the concept of zero emissions."

Originally, the Zoe concept was a concept car with 3 seats that hinted at the current Twingo city-car. The forthcoming Zoe electric car will arrive in 2012.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Volkswagen Polo named 'Car of the Year 2010'

Volkswagen's fifth-generation Polo has won the desirable 'Car of the Year' award for 2010 with 347 points, against 337 for the Toyota iQ which came in second. The new Vauxhall/Opel Astra - a favourite to win and continue GM’s success with the Insignia that won the 2009 title, finished in third place receiving 221 points.

The other finalists for this year's competition, which brings together a total of 59 motoring journalists from 23 European countries, were the Skoda Yeti with 158 points, the Mercedes E-Class with 155 points, the Peugeot 3008 with 144 points and the Citroen C3 Picasso with 113 points.

Car of the Year 2010:

1. Volkswagen Polo - 347 points

2. Toyota iQ - 337 points

3. Vauxhal/Opell Astra - 221 points

4. Skoda Yeti - 158 points

5. Mercedes E-Class - 155 points

6. Peugeot 3008 - 144 points

7. Citroen C3 Picasso - 113 points
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