Mexico Automotive Summit 2016 and the concurrent launch of the highly anticipated 2016 edition of Mexico Automotive Review were undoubtedly a resounding success. More than 300 guests filled the Independence Hall of the Sheraton Maria Isabel hotel in Mexico City to hear what industry experts had to say about Mexico’s future in automotive manufacturing, trade and investment, developing promising new business relationships with fellow industry members.
Mexico’s Rise in the Global Automotive Industry
Continuity, transparency and education have underpinned the state of Guanajuato’s drive to the center of the automotive industry, which will see investment grow, said Miguel Márquez Márquez, Governor of Guanajuato, to open the Mexico Automotive Summit 2016. “Three pillars have been the key to our success: continuity in economic public policy throughout administrations, transparency and the ease of doing business, and education,” he said.
The central-west region of the country is known as the diamond of Mexico and Guanajuato is its heart, Márquez said. The state has advantages that make it one of the top destinations for the automotive industry, including its young demographics, educational facilities and its enviable position near the US border. The northern crossing point at Laredo and Manzanillo and Tampico ports can be reached within one day by truck, thanks to the state’s developed infrastructure.
7,000 engineers in Guanajuato demonstrates exponential growth in higher education participation.
In the past nine years over US$10 billion of investment has poured into the state’s automotive industry, accounting for 73 percent of the total investment the state has attracted over the same period. The number is expected to reach US$12.4 billion by the end of the current administration, with 88,300 new jobs created by 2018, Márquez said.
The governor pointed out that support from both past and current state administrations has been key to the development of the industry. “Continuity and long-term vision have been Guanajuato’s secret. Since 1994, when we decided that we were going to bet on the automotive industry, every governor has made his contribution to its development,” said Márquez.
A favorable climate for business is another factor. Guanajuato has repeatedly landed in the top 3-5 places on the World Bank’s Doing Business index, which Márquez attributed to the state’s political and social environment. This business-friendly atmosphere combined with governmental transparency makes Guanajuato one of the most dynamic hubs for the industry, he said.
The governor added that education is industry’s backbone. Approximately 7,000 engineers graduate every year from universities in the state. Public high schools and technical schools work to implement international good practices and Celaya’s Technological University is expected to be completely bilingual in the following years. “Education is a priority,” he added. “We are putting universities in zones that have been neglected.”
The state’s future looks bright, Márquez said. By 2020, he expects Guanajuato will manufacture 1.5 million vehicles, almost doubling the 763,000 units currently assembled. The manufacture of engines is expected to climb to 1.8 million from 932,000 units and the number of transmissions manufactured is expected to grow to 2.3 million from 1.1 million units. The future opening of manufacturing sites of companies such as Pirelli will also help boost the production of tires to 5 million from 2 million units.
Other industries are also making inroads, the Governor said. Guanajuato’s 14 medium-sized cities, including Leon, Irapuato, Salamanca, Celaya and San Miguel de Allende, are all within a half-hour’s reach, allowing for economic diversification. This has allowed the growth and success of industries such as agrofood, metal mechanics and tourism.
“We are betting on the automotive industry without
neglecting other economic poles,” said Márquez. The state’s airport transports more than 1.5 million passengers per year and is among the five most competitive airports in the country, he said, permitting Guanajuato to become a business platform for North America.
The benefits from the automotive industry are not exclusive to the state but are beneficial for the entire Bajio region, Márquez said. “Investment from the automotive industry is no longer a matter of competition between states. We complement each other.”
“In the past nine years over US$10 billion of investment has poured into the state’s automotive industry.”
Sustainability, Automation at the Forefront of Tech Advances
Although the auto industry is strong and growing, there are still challenges to address, specifically the incorporation of new technology for sustainability and the need to improve passenger experience, panelists said during the discussion Key industry trends: Fuel efficiency & driver experience at Mexico Automotive Summit 2016.
“Energy efficiency is the largest challenge the automotive sector is facing,” said Eugenio Grandio, Charging Manager at Tesla Mexico. “A reason for this is that boosting safety and improving passenger experience often go hand in hand with added weight, which in turn raises fuel use.”
Internal combustion is still the largest power source worldwide so it is necessary to keep investing in R&D to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions, but the main challenge, said moderator Eduardo Solís, Executive President of AMIA, is to find the balance between energy efficiency, passenger comfort and safety.
Several years ago green cars were a novelty, now the world is demanding more green cars. One barrier to penetrating the Mexican market is infrastructure. “Some people do not buy electric cars because they do not know where to charge them,” said Grandio.
It is a bit of a vicious cycle. “Few invest in generating electric infrastructure because there are few electric cars, but people do not buy electric cars because there is no infrastructure to charge them, said Grandio. Incentives are needed for the acquisition of hybrid and green automobiles both for personal use and for public transportation.
One area is seeing improvement: pollution due to transport. “The automotive industry invests over US$100 billion in R&D to reduce emissions,” said moderator Eduardo Solís, Executive President of AMIA. The real problem, he pointed out, does not originate with new cars but from fleets that are 16 years old. Mexico still imports used and old cars, making it necessary to implement public policy that drives the renewal of these fleets. Radek Jelinek, President and Director General of Mercedes-Benz México, agreed that new sustainability practices are necessary, noting the public is behind this push. “New technologies are facilitating global communications, helping users to pressure manufacturers and governments to implement sustainability practices,” he said.
These trends are spreading across brands and segments. Martin Josephi, Director General of Aston Martin, Lamborghini & Morgan Mexico, said that even the luxury car segment is adopting these technologies even though their numbers are too small to have a significant impact on the environment. He said that Lamborghini is increasingly incorporating technology to improve fuel economy while Aston Martin is planning the introduction of an electric car. Trends like these ultimately impact drivers. “These technologies go beyond sustainability and can also be used to improve passenger experience,” said Josephi.
Autonomous driving has grabbed headlines in the past year and panelists suggested it was a way to improve road safety. Grandio pointed out that autonomous cars solved the problem of distracted drivers. “The car will always focus on driving but humans not so,” he said. Other benefits include in shorter commutes. “By making cars ‘talk’ to each other we can reduce commutes by 50 minutes in Mexico City,” said Jelinek about new systems to help cars communicate.
The panelists concluded that new technologies will keep the sector moving forward. “The future is autonomous and electric,” Jelinek said, “Ten years ago we believed that autonomous driving would be impossible, now they are here.”
Car Sales: Digital vs Physical Access to Market
The presence of 65 million internauts in Mexico has shifted the way we buy cars. “The traditional commercial process will never be the same,” said Juan Manuel Díaz de León, Automotive Practice Director of Overlap Consulting Mexico, at Mexico Automotive Summit 2016. “We no longer hand out leaflets to inform people about automotive products.” Customers have leveled-up in knowledge, sometimes even exceeding dealership staff in technical prowess and arrive at agencies with a list of comparative models in mind.
Mexico’s automotive sales have grown 18.5 percent in January-August 2016 compared to 2015 and during their panel Carlos Alberto Lopez de Nava, Director General of Grupo Alden; George Magda, Director of Latin America at Dealer.com; Ricardo Deeke, Country Manager of Autocosmos; Gerardo San Román, Head of Latin America of JATO Dynamics and moderator Díaz compared digital and physical access to the market and the effect on how companies reach customers.
Consumers can have more information than the sales rep and digital market access has meant sales representatives do not necessarily have to respond immediately to clients, said San Román.
“Response times used to be 15 minutes according to the traditional sales process. It can take weeks now,” said Gerardo San Román, Head of Latin America of JATO Dynamics.
Companies must refocus on product distinction and financing to make the buying process much more amicable. Demand for service at dealerships is higher than manufacturing can meet, according to Lopez. Should the fleet of cars ready for sale increase, dealers could respond to customers much faster on online platforms. “A dealership in Mexico City can see 700-800 orders per month,” Lopez said. Eighty-five percent of deals are down to a dealership’s location, he added.
Undeniably, the digital revolution has filtered through to the sales process, which has to be much more personable at the distributor’s location. Should clients want distant contact they can shop online, said Deeke. Sales people must offer something extra: precise information and a warm welcome. Autocosmos is focusing on micro-moments. Complete availability of an assessor online, being quick and useful when handing over information is the only way to secure digital sales successfully, Deeke said.
Sometimes sales assessors understand the technical details of one brand but not of competing brands, said Díaz, a sentiment San Roman reiterated. “This prevents dealerships from being able to offer quality sales services in person,” he said.
The issue is not just service. Inventories need to be online, Magda said, so customers no longer have to ask whether their preferred car is available.
“The US already went through this 19 years ago. Mexico needs to catch up so that people begin to ask ‘what time will the car be ready for me?’” – George Magda, Director of Latin America at Dealer.com
Autocosmos mainly compares new cars but San Román of Jato said that simple comparison no longer is enough. Customers want an emotionally and financially positive experience. “We have to give them total visibility and transparency to create trust,” he said.
The emergence of the digital market also has forced sales reps to evolve and offer a wholly different buying experience. The overbearing issue facing car manufacturers is that distributors manage smaller and smaller inventories. Toyota is the best example of doing this well, however, with 45 days of inventory. Lopez agreed this is the hardest thing for dealerships to overcome.
Buying cars with one click has led digital technology companies such as Google to take starring roles in car manufacturing. Maserati sold 100 of its latest model in 18 seconds on the internet, Díaz pointed out. San Roman said that we needn’t fear cars disappearing. “People will continue needing to get from location to location,” he said. “We will undoubtedly see an overhaul of how cars are used and owned.”
Telematics – The Next Revolution in Fleet Management
Telematics is the latest in a series of disruptive technologies and, just like iPhones revolutionized the cellphone industry, this new technology can revolutionize transportation companies by increasing efficiency, Marcio Hociko, Director of Operations at LeasePlan México, told Mexico Automotive Summit 2016. “Seventy-five percent of companies in the S&P will not remain listed in 15 years if they do not increase efficiency.”
This growing trend, which involves digitally sending, receiving, storing and processing remote information, permits monitoring a large amounts of information, providing users a comprehensive account of the status of their fleets.
While tachographs, devices that record a vehicle’s speed, have been used in cars since 2000, it was not until 2010 that these systems incorporated wireless technology. Many companies now depend on these advances for their daily operations, from Uber to Cabify. Its applications are enormous. Telematics can help companies track their employees and analyze their work area to determine the challenges they face, said Hociko during his presentation “Improving fleet management through telematics.”
The technology can track the competence of drivers to measure whether and how individual users may be damaging their units. Telematics can even increase security as a close monitoring of driving allows fleet owners to identify guilty parties after an accident. By closely tracking the movements of a person and alerting authorities in an emergency situation, this technology can even prevent kidnappings, Hociko said.
While advantages are numerous, many users have concerns related to privacy. The do not want their private information available to monitoring systems. While telematics does permit this, there are many ways to protect this information and companies have to choose a trustworthy provider to ensure safety, said Hociko. Still, “50 percent of drivers feel comfortable using telematics,” he said.
Implementing telematics solutions may be challenging in Mexico where many fleets are outdated. An audience member asked about applications for small and mid-sized fleet users. As telematics becomes more accessible there are few economic barriers to access, Hociko said. “It is only necessary to develop uses for smaller fleets.”
The biggest barrier to the adoption of telematics is that some companies are unaware of how to use the large amount of data they obtain. Hociko suggested the help of an expert to fully understand the benefits telematics can bring to businesses.
Training, Tech to Power Manufacturing Competitiveness
With numerous trade deals in its pocket, Mexico has made it clear it is open to competition but it will need a labor force that is better trained, and the latest technology to back it up, if the country wants to stay ahead of the race, industry leaders told Mexico Automotive Summit 2016.
Óscar Albin, Executive President of INA, moderated the panel that included Fabio Negrao, General Manager of Atlas Copco Mexico, Mario Rodriguez, CEO of Arbomex, Bernd Schreiber, Director General of FESTO and Mario Chacón, Head of the Global Business Promotion Unit at ProMéxico, and which analyzed the integration of metrology, robotics and software tools in the country’s manufacturing sector.
Rodriguez said his company had asked itself how it can maintain enough distance to keep its closest competitor off its tail. The answer was training and vertical integration. He said companies need to train people even if they might leave the company for greener pastures. “At the end of the day, the expertise will exist in Mexico.”
Closing the talent gap is necessary for the country to continue advancing, added Albin. “Mexican engineers are not as good as the US, Canadian, German, Korean, Japanese workforce. We need to be better.”
The emerging solution is to imitate the dual education system implemented in Germany to ensure practical vocations are given the same emphasis as academic pursuits. Audi, Volkswagen and GM are investing in the annual system but SMEs do not have the resources to invest in private initiatives to push the dual system. “With associations such as INA to lead the effort, we could make dual education the norm across Mexico,” said Schreiber. FESTO collaborated with German universities to ensure education institutes have the latest technology to train young recruits in automation.
Technology is also bringing cutting-edge advances to manufacturing floors. “Advanced technology has penetrated the automotive industry more than any other,” said Chacón.
“The newest addition to the manufacturing team is robots.” – Chacón
FESTO’s technology, mass customization and Industry 4.0 suggests that demand for flexibility from clients is forcing mass manufacturers to adopt smart factory practices. Equipped factories include virtual controllers while robots do the heavy lifting humans would have previously. Arbomex has ventured into 3-D manufacturing, with success such that they expect to use it more frequently to plan, test and produce perfect crankshafts in the future.
“These advances must add value so that technicians are recognized for the crucial links in the chain that they are,” said Albin. “We are more cost competitive than Germany in Industry 3.0 but we need to consider how far Mexico is from 4.0 and 100 percent automated factories.”
Mexico’s competitive advantage, according to Negrao, is that “it is very easy to do business in Mexico.” As a Brazilian he offers the external perspective on manufacturing. Nonetheless, the country needs academia and government to take the manufacturing industry in the right direction toward a more competitive industry.
Investment and Supply Chain Development
The advantages Mexico offers to the automotive sector, alongside sociopolitical concerns and areas to develop, were discussed during the panel “Investment and Supply Chain Development” at Mexico Automotive Summit 2016. Andrés Lerch, Partner, Advisory Services and Leader of the Operations Transformation Area of Ernst & Young Mexico, was quick to reassure the audience. “There is no doubt the Mexican automotive sector will keep growing,” he said.
Mexico has bet on the development of local manufacturing. “Twenty years ago Mexico developed an open economic strategy to foreign markets,” Alejandro Díaz de León, Director General of Bancomext said. NAFTA brought manufacturing to the country from the US and the 2008 crisis helped accelerate the sector, said De Icaza. “Now, all labor intensive manufacturing is done in Mexico.”
“Mexico is the Latin American country with the most economic stability over time,” added Diego Spannaus, Head of International Subsidiary Banking and Commercial Banking of HSBC México. “This makes it a good investment destination.” He said that many players, including HSBC, expect Mexico will be among the largest world economies by 2050.
Among the many advantages the country can offer the automotive sector are a young population and an ideal location. But this young population needs appropriate training to support the automotive industry, said Luis Abelleyra, Special Projects Director of Grupo DINA.
There are many initiatives to train future professionals. Grupo DINA, for instance, is collaborating with IPN, research centers and other technology partners, including Cummins, to push forward their training. Highly qualified Mexican engineers can be the backbone of the automotive industry. Local engineers trained by Region ZF TRW Active & Passive Safety Technology have designed all local assembly lines for the company and are even exporting them to Czech Republic and China, said Alberto De Icaza, Director Mexico of the company.
Mexico also offers highly competitive manufacturing costs, especially in comparison to the US. “Making a small car in the US is not cost effective, which is why Ford is moving its manufacturing to Mexico,” said De Icaza.
Road transportation also has aided the automotive industry through increased mobility, said Abelleyra. These measures will continue to pay off. “In 2020, Mexico will manufacture 5 million cars,” he said. The Energy Reform, meanwhile, will provide lower prices for electricity, helping the country to become more competitive, added Díaz.
The development of Tier 1, 2 and 3 suppliers, however, is still needed across the country. Mexico has FTAs with the most important economic regions in the world. Yet, the country needs local suppliers to remain cost competitive. As Abelleyra said, it is necessary to look for strategies that permit timely production while benefitting both manufacturers and suppliers. “Working together we can weather bad economic periods,” he said.
There are outside concerns, as well. Political parties in countries such the UK and the US are prioritizing a local agenda over the international bigger picture, Díaz said. “At the end of the day, no one will fight against their own interests,” he said. “But no matter what, Mexico will remain a fundamental ally to the US.”
Shared Mission: Heavy vehicles, Mobility, Sustainability
Mexico must generate a new paradigm where the individual and sustainability are at the center of mobility public policy and public transportation systems, according to a group of key sector leaders at Mexico Automotive Summit 2016.
Laura Ballesteros, Deputy Minister of Planning at the Ministry of Mobility; Enrique Enrich, Director General of Scania Mexico; and Ignacio García, Vice President of Mexico & Latin America at Cummins participated in the panel “A shared mission: Heavy vehicles, mobility and sustainability.”
In Mexico City, which sees 5.5 million cars on the streets every day and 23 million rides on public transportation, creating a safe, comfortable and multimodal transport system is a priority, said Ballesteros. Of the 5.5 million cars, 60 percent are from the State of Mexico. She stressed the need for the city “to recognize the failure in terms of sustainability of the previous mobility plan and the need to create and implement a new mobility model.” This is the intention of the mobility law, implemented from 2014 onward.
García added that the disordered growth of the metropolitan area has led to high levels of motorized transportation. Should the trend continue, by 2020 Mexico City would be seeing 7.5 million vehicles on its streets. “In Mexico City, 77 percent of the city’s budget for mobility is invested in car infrastructure rather than mobility,” García said. But he added that the city seems to be going in the right direction. “The promotion of non-motorized vehicles and implementation of parking meters are discouraging the use of private vehicles,” he said.
The public transportation model also is transforming. The use of bigger units and telematics is key for optimizing the system, Enrich said. For heavy vehicles OEMs such as Scania, unit production is no longer the priority. Instead they need to focus on the services that are needed afterward. The use of new fuels should also be a priority but “unfortunately, in Mexico, natural gas does not have the support it should have.”
The use of natural gas to fuel buses has several advantages. Vehicles fueled by gas generate lower emissions and less noise pollution. “Electric buses might be the future but gas engines need to be the present,” said Enrich. The Scania Director General also stressed the importance of fleet renovation. “There is no point in having 20 Euro VI gas-engine buses if the rest of the public transportation buses work with 10-year-old technology.”
Enrich pointed out the maintenance limitations that mean electric transport is not yet affordable. The middle ground should be natural gas going from 1 percent gas-powered buses to catch up with California at 65 percent.
Having clarity in legislature is crucial, said García, and for the country to be ready for technology to become part of the mobility plan. The cost of a new low-entry bus is US$5,000 more than a normal unit, according to Enrich. Tijuana is already implementing this style of vehicle to enable access to those with physical limitations and to ultimately make loading and unloading of passengers faster for all. “This technology was tried and tested in Europe and now we can implement it in Mexico,” said Enrich. “When European countries have also successfully implemented electric buses, we can do the same in Mexico but there is no need for the country to shoulder this expense yet.”
For the capital’s future, Ballesteros evoked a sustainable cities model to connect people with their destinations. This should be standard in densely populated cities. García said that Cummins hopes to help clarify the legislative standards to make it clearer what the city can offer the market and what it needs in return.
Ballesteros supports the MX$1 billion investment that would rid the capital city of its Microbuses, emergency solutions to mobility that became intrinsic to transport but which should be removed partially in 2017 and completely in 2018. This is expected to be a popular move among all Mexico City´s commuters.
Logistics: Process and infrastructure
David Resetar, Vice President Automotive Americas of Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, has the key to helping the automotive industry in Mexico: “Technology and talented people.”
Resetar, speaking at Mexico Automotive Summit 2016, said the role of logistics service providers in the country is to minimize the impact the infrastructure challenges have on the automotive supply chain. Despite its numerous competitive advantages, Mexico faces several challenges. There is a shortage of finished vehicle terminal and ports and import processes are still very complex. “Mexico requires 11 documents to make an import while other countries only require 2 documents,” Resetar said, adding that Mexico faces disadvantages in terms of transport, port and rail infrastructure, as well as in payloads.
“What can a logistics provider do in this setting? Integrate a talented team that can minimize the negative impact of the infrastructure on the supply chain,” Resetar said in his presentation “Logistics: Process and infrastructure.” There are four conditions Hellmann’s has deemed as key challenges for logistics service providers: shortage of qualified labor, high logistics costs, undeveloped local supply chains and efficiency and transparency at border crossings and with imports.
For Resetar, having a shortage of qualified labor is one of the most pressing needs the industry faces. “Though there has been an increase in the number of technicians and engineers that every year graduate in the country, they lack the specialized knowledge that is needed in the industry.” Having people without the technical know-how creates a gap in the supply chain because they sometimes do not know how to manage hi-tech extended supply chains and control towers. “You cannot have people learn on the job.”
Another challenge is related to high logistics costs. “The country’s lanes and routes are not optimized, which makes transportation limited,” he said. In this setting, a logistics service provider cannot improve the conditions of the country’s routes but they can share best practices from other industries and help the company grow through continuous improvement programs. The use of root-cause analysis and historic data can generate a positive impact on a company’s operations.
An underdeveloped supply chain poses its own problems. “Not having enough local suppliers generates an extended supply chain that might even involve the home countries of OEMs and Tier 1 companies,” said Resetar. This creates a supply chain gap as transportation costs increase and companies become susceptible to world events, weather conditions, time zones and language barriers. Logistics service providers can play a major role with regional control towers and optimization and involvement with customer ordering.
Efficiency and transparency in border crossings and imports was the last challenge identified by Resetar. The lack of time-predictability in the import process leads to higher costs for importing and exporting because plants need to have additional reserve inventory in case of border setbacks. Logistic service providers can close the gap providing automated in-transit reports and digital shipping documents.
“Setbacks will always happen but it is our job as logistic providers to find ways of making operations run as smoothly as possible for our clients.”
Global Developments Shaping the Mexican Automotive Industry
HSBC expects a weaker Mexican economy to hit private consumption by the end of the year, Alexis Milo, Chief Economist for Mexico at HSBC, told Mexico Automotive Summit 2016. “We expect a deceleration of private consumption leading to low growth rates for the year,” said Milo. “Consumption is growing at an unsustainable 12 percent rate and we believe that it will slow down to a 4 percent rate.”
The Mexican economy has slowed due to rising exchange rates and lower oil prices. The peso’s value has also been impacted by global markets, he said. Furthermore, exports have decelerated due to economic vulnerability in the US, Mexico’s largest export destination. The Fiscal Reform introduced last year brought about budget cuts that have impacted many sectors, with infrastructure being the worst hit.
"The only economic sector growing is automotive," said Milo.
“Automotive has been a success story for the past five years,” he said. Car manufacturing has greatly increased but underwent a small deceleration in the first months of the year caused by the short-term saturation of the US market. Internal demand for vehicles also has not increased drastically. “We expect this trend to be temporary and we expect a recovery in this sector as Mexico can attract manufacturing from other countries.”
Exchange rates do not seem to have affected the sector, Milo said. In 2015, vehicle sales reached 1.4 million, a drop from 2014. Milo said it the decrease was not worse because the price impact from a weaker peso against the dollar was not passed onto consumers. In some cases, vehicles were less expensive in Mexico than in the US.
Milo also touched on the possibility of a US President Donald Trump. The automotive sector will continue to grow in Mexico, even if Trump’s policies are enforced, he said. “It is simply not possible to return Mexican manufacturing to the US,” said Milo. “The costs of a car made in the US would be too high for consumers.” Furthermore, both countries’ manufacturing is heavily integrated so the impact of tariffs that would follow a repeal of NAFTA would drive prices in the US through the roof. The automobile market is expected to remain strong, both globally and in the US.
The overall Mexican economic panorama is expected to turn around, he said. Unemployment has decreased, albeit mainly due to the rise in underpaid employment. The exchange rate has not heavily impacted inflation and the prices of some basic foodstuffs and air transport has even fallen. While gasoline has grown by 3 percent, this rate is significantly lower than the expected 12 percent. Low inflation and a good job market have increased demand for consumer durables. “We predict the economy will grow by 2.2 percent in 2015 and by 2.7 percent in 2017. This is much better than other Latin American countries’ forecasts. “
HSBC sees low inflation for the rest of the year. “We expect calm development in the Mexican economy for the rest of 2016 but volatility in financial markets, which may impact industrial activity.” There are, however, risks to consider, including public finances as public debt has grown to 50 percent from 38 percent. While this is not too high, its fast growth is a matter of concern.
The peso, meanwhile, will likely meander in its current trough, whether the US votes in President Trump or President Hillary Clinton. “By the end of 2016 we expect the dollar to cost MX$18.50, or MX$18 if Hilary wins,” said Milo.
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