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Old 09-15-2014, 11:29 AM   #1
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Default Nissan may pull the plug on some battery-plantproduction as EV hopes fade

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Nissan may pull the plug on some battery-plant production as EV hopes fade



Carlos Ghosn, head of Nissan and Renault, is preparing to cut production at Nissan's battery plants in the U.S. and England. A decision is to be made by next month.

PARIS (Reuters) -- Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn is preparing to cut battery manufacturing, people familiar with the matter said, in a new reversal on electric cars that has reopened deep divisions with alliance partner Renault.

The plan, which faces stiff resistance within the Japanese carmaker, would see U.S. and British production phased out and a reduced output of next-generation batteries concentrated at its domestic plant, two alliance sources told Reuters.

In what may also prove a politically sensitive blow to Japan Inc., Nissan would follow Renault by taking cheaper batteries from South Korea's LG Chem for some future vehicles, including models made in China.

"We set out to be a leader in battery manufacturing but it turned out to be less competitive than we'd wanted," said one executive on condition of anonymity. "We're still between six months and a year behind LG in price-performance terms."

A decision on the Nissan battery plants in Sunderland, England, and Smyrna, Tenn., is due next month, the sources said, following a tense procurement review with 43.4 percent shareholder Renault, the smaller but senior partner in their 15-year-old alliance.

"Renault would clearly prefer to go further down the LG sourcing route, and the Nissan engineers would obviously prefer to stay in-house," another insider said. "The write-off costs are potentially huge."

Renault-Nissan "remains 100 percent committed to its industry-leading electric vehicle program" and has no plans to write down battery investments, spokeswoman Rachel Konrad said.

"We have not taken any decision whatsoever to modify battery sourcing allocation," Konrad said, adding that the alliance "does not confirm or deny procurement reviews."

But Nissan is already negotiating with manufacturing partner NEC Corp. on the shift to dual sourcing, with Ghosn's backing, the sources said. Nissan currently makes all its own electric-car batteries.

One option being explored would see LG, which supplies some Renault models, invest in its own battery production at one of the overseas Nissan plants as the carmaker halts operations at the sites.

The alliance is also in talks with LG on a deal to supply batteries for future Renault and Nissan electric models in China, one of the sources added.

NEC and LG declined to comment.

Under Ghosn, who heads both companies, Renault-Nissan bet more on electric cars than any mainstream competitor, pledging in 2009 to invest 4 billion euros ($5.2 billion) to build models including the Nissan Leaf compact and as many as 500,000 batteries per year to power them.

Nissan and NEC invested 23 billion yen ($215 million) in their Zama, Japan, battery plant and electrode manufacturing, backed by government aid. U.S. and British taxpayers also helped with the $1 billion invested in Tennessee and 210 million pounds ($341 million) in Sunderland.

But the mass consumer was largely unmoved -- or deterred by the sluggish rollout of recharging networks -- despite generous sales incentives in key markets.

Global electric-car sales will remain shy of 1 million in 2020, according to forecaster IHS Automotive, less than one percent of the total vehicle market, and one-tenth of the demand Ghosn had predicted.

"Renault-Nissan were definitely ahead of their time -- in a bad way," said Stuart Pearson, an Exane BNP analyst.

"There's nothing wrong with ambition, but when that involves excess investment then it's also a risk," he said. "Their targets were really excessive on volume and battery capacity."

The alliance has begun a belated push into faster-selling hybrids, combining electric and combustion-engine propulsion. Upscale electric rivals such as Tesla's Model S meanwhile hog the limelight, backed by big investments in newer, cheaper battery technologies.

Internal rivalries

Ghosn dropped extra battery sites planned for both alliance carmakers, leaving Nissan with the entire production capacity of 220,000 power packs through the NEC joint venture, AESC.

But that still far exceeds the 67,000 electric cars Renault-Nissan sold last year, and even the 176,000 registered to date. A pledge to reach 1.5 million by 2016 has been scrapped.

The coming hybrids will fill some of the excess plant capacity, although they use fewer power cells per vehicle. An all-electric Tesla rival is still planned for Nissan's premium Infiniti brand in 2018 with batteries as big as 60 kWh, more than twice the energy capacity of the Leaf, which is due for replacement the previous year.

Nissan is seeking to unwind a ruinous NEC contract that requires it to purchase electrodes for the full capacity of 220,000 Leaf-sized 24 kWh batteries regardless of actual sales, sources said. The joint venture partner's consent is also needed to bring LG production or other activities onto the Tennessee or Sunderland sites, which together employ 500 workers.

The financial hit for Nissan "will depend on what else we can do with the plants", with heavy charges likely if both are closed, one manager added.

Renault has already taken at least one writedown of 85 million euros on its over-investment in electric cars following the collapse of Better Place -- a charging startup that had ordered 100,000 of its battery-powered Fluence sedans.

The Nissan procurement shift could still be thwarted by capacity-cutting costs including repayment of U.S. and British government support. Next-generation battery manufacturing at Zama would also likely need fresh Japanese aid to compete with LG and its subsidies from Seoul, sources said.

Navigating the battery backtrack is a key test for CEO Ghosn as he demands closer Renault-Nissan integration from executives mandated to pursue savings across the alliance.

For Nissan, the plant cuts would be a partial retreat from the automotive battery market -- expected to top $20 billion by 2020 -- just as Tesla builds its $5 billion gigafactory with Panasonic in Nevada.

Japanese engineers are still smarting from Renault's 2010 move to drop Nissan batteries and purchase LG for its flagship Zoe model, worsening the overcapacity problem.

"It was a 15-20 percent cost gap," said one of the people involved in the Renault decision. "In purchasing, 3-4 percent is usually enough to choose a partner for."

Today's Nissan batteries come in at $270 per kWh, based on replacement prices thought to be below cost, according to consulting firm AlixPartners. The true manufacturing cost is believed to be over $300, inflated by the amortization of unused plant capacity and the burdensome electrodes deal.

The next generation will have lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide cathodes, as used by LG, rather than the current lithium manganese oxide chemistry. The alliance cost target is $200/kWh, whether made or bought, sources said.

With a clean slate and sufficient volume, Nissan engineers insist, their next generation of batteries could be competitive on price as well as keeping crucial know-how at the company.

"When you're developing cutting-edge technology, the best way to know about that technology is to build it in-house," said one. "That's what Tesla is doing."

Many of the past missteps can be traced to internal rivalries of the kind Ghosn is only now moving to stamp out.

Former Nissan second-in-command Carlos Tavares, racing to beat the Renault Zoe to market, cut Leaf development by a year and skipped a critical battery redesign, according to alliance veterans. Nissan later cut prices, settled a class action and offered retroactive warranties to answer customer concerns about battery deterioration. Tavares now heads PSA Peugeot Citroen.

His Renault archrival at the time, Patrick Pelata, signed a confidentiality deal with LG that meant Nissan battery engineers never even knew what they were up against.

Against that backdrop, the atmosphere may be charged when Nissan engineering boss Hideyuki Sakamoto puts final arguments against the outsourcing plan in a presentation to Ghosn as soon as this week.

But the CEO's mind may be all but made up.

"We're in the process of opening up battery sourcing to a range of suppliers," Ghosn said last week when asked whether Renault could buy batteries from France's Bolloré.

In future some batteries will likely be outsourced "within the framework of alliance procurement," he added. "What's important to us is that electric car performance fully meets customer expectations."
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Old 09-15-2014, 03:36 PM   #2
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The Leaf has taught us that nobody is going to buy an electric car with less than 200 mile range in the real world, even if you practically give them away. Remember when Tesla discontinued their cheapest and shortest range model S? Despite the financial implications for Nissan, all this battery production stuff is only one part of that larger problem.
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Old 09-15-2014, 03:56 PM   #3
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This is a misleading title and summary. LEAF sales are just fine--new records near monthly, at a 25k+ per year pace in the US. Not bad.

The problem is of the cost effectiveness of the Smyrna plant relative to LG. LG is building batteries cheaper, so it makes sense for Nissan to buy from them.

http://insideevs.com/monthly-plug-in-sales-scorecard/

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Old 09-15-2014, 04:40 PM   #4
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Correct, and the next gen leaf is going to add roughly 100 mile range to existing range.
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Old 09-15-2014, 05:22 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arghx7 View Post
The Leaf has taught us that nobody is going to buy an electric car with less than 200 mile range in the real world, even if you practically give them away. Remember when Tesla discontinued their cheapest and shortest range model S? Despite the financial implications for Nissan, all this battery production stuff is only one part of that larger problem.


see shik's post for details.

However, the only area the title is right is in the originally hoped for volume is too optimistic by about 50%.
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Old 09-15-2014, 05:28 PM   #6
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How about Nissan make an EV vehicle that doesn't look like a complete turd.
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Old 09-15-2014, 06:21 PM   #7
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How about Nissan make an EV vehicle that doesn't look like a complete turd.
Range is more of an issue than subjective looks.

Quote:
...
This change – officially denied by Nissan – raises a lot of questions here, since Nissan made a huge deal about building the Leaf pack in Tennessee a few years ago. In fact, the car's big price drop was due, in part, to localizing battery production. If the company is really going to give up on building the packs where it makes the cars, then does Nissan not see itself as being capable of producing an energy-dense battery cheap enough to compete with Tesla and its Gigafactory and GM (which, of course, has long worked with LG Chem on batteries)? Whatever Nissan decides, it needs to be ready to compete in a market that offers a $35,000, 200-mile car by 2017.
...
http://green.autoblog.com/2014/09/15...attery-plants/
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Old 09-15-2014, 11:12 PM   #8
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How about Nissan make an EV vehicle that doesn't look like a complete turd.
And without a rear bumper that looks like it's dragging a diaper stuffed with a week's worth of ****.

It's the douchiest looking car out there. I drive an electric car and I NEED you to know it. It's like Dodge trucks as of late. 12x14" ram logo with chrome lettering you can see from a mile away. "Yiiiiiiip, it appears that fella drives a truck" Or its to remind ******** like me it's a Ram.

*Runs to the gripe thread
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Old 09-15-2014, 11:41 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by arghx7 View Post
The Leaf has taught us that nobody is going to buy an electric car with less than 200 mile range in the real world, even if you practically give them away. Remember when Tesla discontinued their cheapest and shortest range model S? Despite the financial implications for Nissan, all this battery production stuff is only one part of that larger problem.
Uhh, well, I see plenty of them every day in the Phoenix area. It's my observation that they're much more popular in the western states where there's more infrastructure to support their usage. HOV lanes, charging stations, etc.
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Old 09-16-2014, 12:00 AM   #10
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Range is more of an issue than subjective looks.


yeah....that's just YOUR opinion.

maybe you think the juke is a pretty car, too???




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Old 09-16-2014, 12:45 AM   #11
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Range is more of an issue than subjective looks.



http://green.autoblog.com/2014/09/15...attery-plants/
I'm willing to bet their are a ton of people who would purchase said Leaf if it didn't look like a tinker toy car built out of clay by a 10 year old. Nissan can easily get away with selling a cheaper EV vehicle, even with a smaller range if they had something that was visually appealing.

Even if Nissan gave the Leaf the same range as a tesla vehicle, still priced it less, would look at it and go "damn, that car looks great, and the EV is just a bonus!".... None.

There are plenty of people who live in cities that drive much less than 100 miles... Hell, the majority of people who own any car dont see 100 miles a day.

Yes, farther range is better. No on is going to argue that. However, there are certain looks and features that are going to appeal to a much larger population. You can give a vehicle 600 mile range, if it looks like complete ****, how many people will still buy it?

Do you think Tesla would be selling as many vehicles if it had identical bland styling like the Leaf? The answer is no.

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Old 09-16-2014, 03:37 AM   #12
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I'm willing to bet their are a ton of people who would purchase said Leaf if it didn't look like a tinker toy car built out of clay by a 10 year old. Nissan can easily get away with selling a cheaper EV vehicle, even with a smaller range if they had something that was visually appealing.

Even if Nissan gave the Leaf the same range as a tesla vehicle, still priced it less, would look at it and go "damn, that car looks great, and the EV is just a bonus!".... None.

There are plenty of people who live in cities that drive much less than 100 miles... Hell, the majority of people who own any car dont see 100 miles a day.

Yes, farther range is better. No on is going to argue that. However, there are certain looks and features that are going to appeal to a much larger population. You can give a vehicle 600 mile range, if it looks like complete ****, how many people will still buy it?

Do you think Tesla would be selling as many vehicles if it had identical bland styling like the Leaf? The answer is no.
Range anxiety is the main reason why people DON'T look at EV's, especially the Nissan Leaf.

Do you really think it's just a simple coincidence Tesla is planning the Model III with a 200 mile range instead of a 100 (or lower) mile range like the Leaf?

Yes, if it looked like a ****ty Fisher Kaput, most people would say "no thanks" but that's hardly the case. 87 ESTIMATED miles real world isn't enough. It's not ALWAYS 87 miles either since most people don't try to squeeze every single mile out like the average consumer who buys a Leaf. Climate control, radio, etc. as always will drain the battery.


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Old 09-16-2014, 08:10 AM   #13
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Remember, because of range anxiety, nobody is going to drive an EV until its battery is about to die. Lots of people fill up their gas tank when it's say 1/4 or 1/8 full according to the fuel gauge. It's the same with an EV, except you can't stop at a gas station normally. So that effectively decreases your range.

Then you put weather effects on top of that, that decreases your range in hot and cold conditions. Then account for the fact that EV range is certified by driving the EPA city cycle over and over again on a chassis dyno until the vehicle dies--it's not a very aggressive drive cycle.

The usable, normal driving range for an EV is significantly less than advertised because of these factors (weather, drive cycle, reserve due to anxiety).
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Old 09-16-2014, 10:19 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by godfather2112 View Post
I'm willing to bet their are a ton of people who would purchase said Leaf if it didn't look like a tinker toy car built out of clay by a 10 year old. Nissan can easily get away with selling a cheaper EV vehicle, even with a smaller range if they had something that was visually appealing.

Even if Nissan gave the Leaf the same range as a tesla vehicle, still priced it less, would look at it and go "damn, that car looks great, and the EV is just a bonus!".... None.

There are plenty of people who live in cities that drive much less than 100 miles... Hell, the majority of people who own any car dont see 100 miles a day.

Yes, farther range is better. No on is going to argue that. However, there are certain looks and features that are going to appeal to a much larger population. You can give a vehicle 600 mile range, if it looks like complete ****, how many people will still buy it?

Do you think Tesla would be selling as many vehicles if it had identical bland styling like the Leaf? The answer is no.
I leased one for the time being and the looks were last on the list of my checkboxes. I mean it's not like Subarus are great looking vehicles so that has always been last on my list anyway. With tint, nobody can really tell who you are anyhow.

I just did a test drive and was really surprised. It's a big go cart and has torque. Lots of features, superb Nav, Bose sound system kicks ass.
Costing me about $5 a month in electricity to run it. Decent test car, for me, for several years, to see if E is feasible. If Subaru doesn't release a 5dr wrx/sti in the next 3 years I'll probably buy the Tesla Model 3 or lease another Leaf.

I also wish they'd just make it look like a regular hatch but at the end of the day it's not that big of a deal. And doesn't appear to me a big deal to many because they are moving them, 85 mile range and all. $199 a month and $5 monthly fuel is pretty damn tough to beat. Will be hard to go back to spending $100 or more on gasoline for a car a month after driving this thing.
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Old 09-16-2014, 10:48 AM   #15
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You just hardly see those Leafs around here in the northeast. Quite a few Model S's, but no Leafs. Unlike when I lived in SoCal almost a year ago, Leafs were a common appearance, especially among the people I commuted to Los Angeles with. There were tons of state and local incentives to lease one and our parking lot at the train station constructed several solar powered charging stations for their use. Even folks who lived in condos with no self charging stations were encouraged to lease them because the infrastructure was there. Here in the northeast, those incentives just don't exist.
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Old 09-16-2014, 12:44 PM   #16
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You just hardly see those Leafs around here in the northeast. Quite a few Model S's, but no Leafs. Unlike when I lived in SoCal almost a year ago, Leafs were a common appearance, especially among the people I commuted to Los Angeles with. There were tons of state and local incentives to lease one and our parking lot at the train station constructed several solar powered charging stations for their use. Even folks who lived in condos with no self charging stations were encouraged to lease them because the infrastructure was there. Here in the northeast, those incentives just don't exist.
Never expected them to be big sellers here in TX but I am seeing them everywhere but this is one of the key markets for them and the EV stations. There are chargers everywhere.
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Old 09-16-2014, 03:16 PM   #17
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I have seven 7 leafs, ever.
They are an oddity like an Aztek. You have to stare, but not in a good way. Once more infrastructure pops up, EV will be more common. That is the only thing that is holding them back. Batteries suck, sure, they always do. But with enough charging stations they can be a daily driver for many more people.

It is very psychological. If you are an appliance driver. I mean you do not care what you drive and you are the kind of person who makes spreadsheets about what offers the best long term value kind of guy. Driving past a charging station or two on the way to work every day would start to send the message slowly, hey, maybe I can make this work.

I really believe, that if you build EV stations, the cars will come.
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Old 09-16-2014, 04:02 PM   #18
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I disagree.

The charging infrastructure is already here--120V or 240V power in your garage. The public level 2 EVSE installations are just for peace of mind. Level 3 quick chargers are a different ballgame, but I wouldn't count on having one operational and available for my daily commute.
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Old 09-16-2014, 04:36 PM   #19
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But I personally beleive people need to SEE that they will not be stranded no matter where they are. People are not ready for the charge every day mindset. I think they need to know that if I forget, I can charge on the way home.

Maybe I am wrong...The EV tifosi do not need to be convinced, they are already on board with the lifestyle. You have to wrap up Mr. and Mrs. Camry.
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Old 09-16-2014, 07:59 PM   #20
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Never expected them to be big sellers here in TX but I am seeing them everywhere but this is one of the key markets for them and the EV stations. There are chargers everywhere.
It's weird that the vast states with tons of distance to cover are getting better take rates than congested places like Jersey. Then again, us Jersey folks much prefer commuting via public transportation than driving anyhow. It's funny how the first small EV I've seen since I returned to Jersey was at an autocross.


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Old 09-16-2014, 11:00 PM   #21
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Remember, because of range anxiety, nobody is going to drive an EV until its battery is about to die. Lots of people fill up their gas tank when it's say 1/4 or 1/8 full according to the fuel gauge. It's the same with an EV, except you can't stop at a gas station normally. So that effectively decreases your range.

Then you put weather effects on top of that, that decreases your range in hot and cold conditions. Then account for the fact that EV range is certified by driving the EPA city cycle over and over again on a chassis dyno until the vehicle dies--it's not a very aggressive drive cycle.

The usable, normal driving range for an EV is significantly less than advertised because of these factors (weather, drive cycle, reserve due to anxiety).
Thank you. Someone who understands the EV leash.
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Old 09-17-2014, 08:00 AM   #22
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How about Nissan make an EV vehicle that doesn't look like a complete turd.

dont worry Bugatti has your ass covered



http://www.glamcar.com/bugatti/rumor...GlamCar.com%29
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Old 09-17-2014, 09:31 AM   #23
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Put me in the "if it didn't look stupid" category of potential buyers. It reminds me of when hybrids first came out. Many car manufacturers made the cars look odd simply because buyers wanted others to know that "hey, I'm saving the environment and driving a hybrid".

I like the tesla roadster and the model S. I can realistically afford either. The volt isn't bad looking but is also expensive for what it is. $40k buys some fun cars. The Think EV and Leaf just look like they're trying too hard to say "look at me! i'm driving electric!". Make them look like normal everyday cars.
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Old 09-17-2014, 10:14 AM   #24
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Well, the hybrid versions of everyday cars like the Accord didn't sell very well, especially in the beginning. Meanwhile, the 2nd gen and later Prius had a very distinct look, one that also had an aerodynamic benefit. So you can't blame them for making a "look at me" styling from that perspective. It worked for the Prius.
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Old 09-17-2014, 12:12 PM   #25
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It's almost like different people have different tastes....
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