Parked Wreckla, Pariah at Pasture

Petty Problems Purchasing Parts.

With my delayed schedule, some people in this great cesspool of an internet have jumped to the conclusion that I’m just too addicted to driving the Wreckla to dismantle it and build the Stretchla. I can see how that might seem like a reasonable assumption but I’m here to tell you it’s not the case. I voluntarily chose to stop driving the Wreckla shortly after I verified proper charging at the Supercharger. Why I did that deserves some explanation.  Normally I would find it fun to drive some hacked up barely legal unsafe vehicle on the street, so why am I not doing that now? It started with an email out of the blue from my local Tesla parts department:

“Due to the salvage status of your Model S , I have been instructed to cease providing you with parts.  Tesla is very concerned about vehicles with salvaged titles being improperly repaired.  Going forward, all salvaged vehicles must be inspected by us or our approved body shop, Precision Auto Body. If declared a candidate for proper repair, reconstruction must be completed  by a Tesla-Certified Body Shop.”


Funny how one email can change so much.

I have no doubt that my Wreckla qualifies as the poster child of an “improperly repaired” vehicle.  As you can imagine the email brought me a number of emotions. The first was a feeling of rejection. I like Tesla, I give them good money for parts, most of my investment portfolio is in Tesla stock, what have I done to upset them? Does Tesla not love me anymore? Fear; what am I going to do with the Stretchla if some crucial part breaks when I’m thousands of miles from home? Concern; what does this do to the salvaged and used Tesla market? Will people with salvage Teslas now be more likely to run them in unsafe condition, or even be unable to drive them at all? It stinks of big brother at first look, and I don’t know if I like it. They must have some good reason for this policy.

Once I got over the shock, I started to analyze what I figure this means to me, as well as for others.

First of all, it was not that big of a shock to me. I’ve heard of others with salvage Teslas unable to buy parts before me, I feel very grateful that I was able to buy as many parts as I did. I do wish that I had bought the front sway bar and drop link before this happened, but I’m sure I’ll find used parts somewhere.

I already learned that auto manufacturers have no legal requirement to provide replacement parts at all. They choose to supply individual parts for a number of reasons. For starters, if manufacturers didn’t have parts they would have to replace the entire car for any warranty issue. That could get expensive fast. There is also the issue of resale value. The resale value of a brand affects the desirability of cars and value falls quite a bit if parts and service are not readily available at a reasonable cost. In this case I expect this policy will reduce the resale value of salvaged Teslas quite a bit, but does that matter to the overall goal of the company to “to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible”? I estimate that less than one half of one percent of Teslas have been totalled. Maybe a few people will feel uncomfortable buying a car that would be unrecoverable from a salvage title event, but I suspect that in the end this policy will have a very tiny impact on the market for Teslas.

My primary question was “why are they doing this?” I asked if they had any more to say, but Tesla provided no further explanation so it’s up to us to speculate. The best explanation I’ve heard so far was from a friend who talked about the excellent safety record of the Model S and how it interacts with our dysfunctional media. Remember what happened when Tesla’s slowly caught fire many long minutes after impacting large destructive objects on the road? The media made a sensation out of a non-event and Elon Musk admitted demand for the Model S fell. Now imagine if you will, what would happen if I was killed in an accident in my unsafe Tesla? I can see the headlines now: “Man Killed in Model S, Are EV’s Safe?” (Note to media reading this, this is not a real headline, do not quote me out of context!) Maybe somewhere down in the fourth paragraph they might mention that I was driving a salvage title car with a cracked frame and the air bags disabled fully aware of the danger, but that’s not what the world would remember, they would just eat up the headline and believe the media fairy tale. Of course people die all the time in other cars, but this is still a special time for Tesla and the first fatality is bound to be a media circus. I hope it is still far off. (Edit: Since I first wrote this there has been one fatality of an alleged thief of a Tesla that split in in half using a light pole in Hollywood at a very high rate of speed)

I love that EV’s are finally being taken seriously. I believe it’s all due to Tesla succeeding in the market. I don’t want to risk an event that might have a strong negative effect on that success. That’s the reason I’ve parked the “Wreckla.” I still reposition it around the yard as needed and I did recently drive it to a shop where we drained the freon out of the air conditioning system, but since then I’ve even removed it from my insurance. Still, every time I open the door to that spaceship, my Slacker station starts playing and I’m all the more excited to get that system swapped over to the Stretchla!

As for others who own salvage Teslas, we’ll have to see what happens. The current wording of the statement is not very flexible. I expect that most any car that was “salvaged” was damaged so much that it did not make financial sense to repair it at a “Tesla-Certified Body Shop.” Most people that rebuild salvaged vehicles use less expensive methods like combining parts from many salvaged vehicles. This is the first that I’ve heard of a manufacturer playing at the role of safety police. It seems to me that Tesla puts itself in an odd position taking on the role traditionally held by government regulations of controlling safety. I’ve heard rumor that Mercedes has very different policy. I’ve heard they sell “safety relevant items” such as brakes and air bags at cost to encourage people to keep their cars safe. People have contacted me about these issues and already I know of some very unsafe “repairs” that are being done on Teslas to try to drive the car without Tesla support. Hacking may be encouraged as well so long as Tesla does not provide basic service access and especially when the service center refuses to work on unapproved salvaged cars. How many people will not be able to do something as simple as bleed the coolant due to being on a Tesla black list? I know that encourages me to find a work around which may persuade me to share hacking information with others. But I really don’t want to do that, I’m not sure that public hacks are in the best interest of safe vehicles.

The more I look at this question, the more difficult it looks. Personal motivation aside, I don’t know what I think is best for Tesla and their honorable mission. Tesla is still a young company, they have yet to publicly address Right to Repair pressures. I expect this policy is an early work and I hope it will change in time. I hope Tesla does allow independent facilities to access parts and basic necessary tool data. I’m keeping up the hope that Tesla is working on  a longer term vision that will support all Tesla owners without relegating owners with branded titles,  like me,  to some sort of third class status.

As for getting parts I may need to keep the Stretchla running (once I finish it), I don’t know what I’ll do about that. Eventually there will be more wrecks in the junkyards, that should help. Maybe Tesla will mature it’s policy in some way that helps me and maybe they will release open repair tools too. I’ll just stay hopeful and play it one day at a time.

47 thoughts on “Pariah

  1. Hack it and collect 10000.00 from Tesla. Then sell your story to the media. Mercedes made safe cars for years without airbags. Imagine Nicola Tesla denied parts for his experiments. What about Musk and his open source on patents? A product sold on the open market as used with no warranty and rebuilt is still a product and viable. If it is licensed and insured they can’t legally deny parts making it non-op. In fact I just ordered a windshield for a 83 Mercedes. It required a gasket which wasn’t available in Amerika. Parts guy ordered it from Germany saying car was off road, or non-op. Part was shipped overnight without extra charge. Btw, overnight from the Fartherland is three days.

    Good luck with making them see reason on this upsetting turn of events.

    Pete E.

    • Maybe, but if some other OEM had a policy of no parts sales for salvaged vehicles do you really think the dealers would go against that, and possibly violate a dealership agreement?

      • I gotta also ask if gm or vw wrote the same letter would you be so conflicted or be a lot more outraged? I love tesla so am probably a lot biased like you. That being said welding aluminum can be tough and average joe mechanic might not be able to handle the advanced high voltage powertrain. Good luck and I hope you start getting help from them. You are making my dream car and want you to succeed.

  2. An unfortunate turn of events. Though I understand Tesla’s motivation I think their refusal to help will only spur motivated individuals to come up with their own, possibly less safe, solutions, and could ultimately backfire on Tesla. Of course you, (like many others), have pissed off Jack Rickard because you won’t have the Stretchla finished in time for EVCON 😉

  3. This is an interesting conundrum. The liability question for Tesla revolves around their implied participation in your project. By selling parts to you, with prior knowledge of what you’re up to, a court could take the position that Tesla is a willing participant in the outcome. This scenario differs from traditional car manufacturers in at least two ways: Traditionally, parts are sold by third-party dealers, not the manufacturers themselves, providing an extra layer of protection for the manufacturer. Second, many mechanical parts on traditional cars are produced by outside companies, not the car’s manufacturer. Not so much the case with Tesla.

    Indeed, there is nothing that Tesla could do to prevent you from buying salvage parts, but of course in that instance the liability problem for Tesla goes away. Along these lines, I’m willing to bet that Tesla does not provide firmware updates for any vehicle with a salvage title.

    Tesla’s direct connection to its customers is both an asset and a liability to the company. Their customer service is the best on the planet, but such a close connection to owners raises expectations and increases Tesla’s liability when things don’t go perfectly.

  4. This is an old problem for EVs in general. It goes back to lawyers and liability and laws that hold manufacturers liable for future accidents even if a vehicle has been modified. it killed the conversion movement from MY point of view…
    Sooner or later, Tesla Motors might discover the disclaimer, requiring any parts purchaser to sign off for liability issues. After all why should they limit their ability to do business?
    In the meantime, I think your networking skills will help you deal with this.
    What I read is, this means more energy goes into the Stretchla. Right?
    You could always get a job on the production line, you and your 10pound lunch box LOL

  5. Thanks everyone for the comments!
    I’m short on reply time since I’m rushing off to TMC Connect, hopefully I can catch up after that. If you are at TMC Connect please come say hi, I plan to be wearing the “I void warranties” shirt. 🙂

  6. Otmar,
    So sorry about this major setback. Hope eveything works out well for you.
    Good luck!

    • Salvage vehicles are ‘turned off’ as far as the Supercharger use is concerned. The socket will go red and the dashboard will say ‘supercharging not authorized’. At least that’s my experience.

      • Thanks for your input.
        This is the first that I’ve heard of salvage vehicles having supercharging disabled. It would be a serious blow to the core concept of my project if supercharging were not possible. This deserves some further investigation.

        • It’s most disheartening. I returned my project vehicle to the lot where I bought it and it is on the block, it’s no good to me without supercharging. The Van Nuys service adviser and Tesla factory body shop person Kelly Logan said that the approved body shop that looked at my car could repair it for about $45k. Since Tesla could not guarantee airbag operation or other safety concerns, he said, they would not enable supercharging unless the car was repaired and re-certified. I’m not sure how this applies in your Stretchla project. Enabling supercharging is a $2.5K option for 60Kw cars of course, and at one point a girl in the service office was about to sell me that option. This was the first salvage car they had ever seen, so who knows what could come. You are the lead guy I think. Did you find out anything at Tesla Connect ?

  7. WOW, what a cogent descriptions of the exact same emotions that poured over me all day today when I stopped in to the Centinela Ave. Tesla service center. I had just left SUR motor cars / world wide auto, a
    high dollar salvage yard in Gardena, CA where my newly repaired but salvage title model S 85
    is. My check for $64,150.00 for the car just cleared. I thought I would stop and pick up two charging adapters, the 15 and 30 amp plugs at $45. each. After entering my VIN from the receipt and sales contract that was in my hand from my new purchase, the service center refused to sell
    me the charging adapters, which they had on hand. The shock and dismay and horror set in, what kind of mistake have I made ? The car suffered front end and driver door damage, and
    seems to be fully reapired except for a ‘contact Tesla service” alert, which I was told is an airbag
    alarm that needs to be reset.
    I purchased the adapters online anonymously from my phone.
    I’m wondering if this means I can’t use the iPhone app, or do anything at all with the car…
    I will be keenly following your Stretchla project
    I sold most of my Tesla stock and went $25k into debt to buy this salvage, for which I put up a kickstarter page;

  8. In Norway it is regulated by law that any shop can repair your car and do regular service (with the warranty still valid,) and the manufacturer has to provide parts and instructions.

    I’m seeing a scenario where a allot of parts are shipped back and fort across the Atlantic 🙂 I guess some EV owners would be happy to get the parts you need and have them shipped.

  9. That is a very sad development. Not really befitting a company that seemingly wants to capitalize on being open to further their goal. This might not bode well for the future of Tesla (to my dismay and the joy of the naysayers).

    Keeping things close to their chest by having only certified people working on the cars because they are fearful will give them a good feeling on the short term but it will come back to haunt them in the near future.
    Just you wait when those who have salvaged cars go about fixing instead of replacing things and hacking things together simply because they are not able to buy the parts (at any price). It seems to me a very short sighted position to take on their part. I still can’t really believe them to be so obtuse and think this measure will stop salvage cars from hitting the road and perhaps at some point make some bad publicity for them.

    Do they not realize that if they achieve their (apparent) goal of not having salvage cars they do not “certify to be repairable” on the road that will lead at some point to having either a bucketload of salvage parts on the market opening up all kinds of bad situations or that all the salvage cars will at some point form a huge distributed Tesla cemetery? A big salvage yard full of Teslas is not really a pretty sight for the marketing department.
    Did the execs in charge that made that decision previously work for GM or something?

    It strikes me that their policy and closed approach to secondary customers could perhaps stop or slow down Otmar, the well intentioned tinkerer, but will only aid those that would rather see or have Tesla (the company) truly out to pasture. As for liability issues, have him sign a disclaimer, just like the doctors do and let him buy a whole car in parts for 200k if he wants. Remember this secondary customer paid 42k for this car, if he had bad intentions he would have bought the fender and bumper cover on ebay (making the car look nice and neat, parked the at a mall or something trigger a fire but not before shorting the stock like crazy, making his 42k back with interest in one day).

    Meanwhile Mr. Montgomery got to drive a model s for free for a year or so, had all the parts needed and then some provided under warranty, got his lawyer a fat paycheck again and got all his money back. Sadly in case of Otmar, lemon laws don’t apply so he is SOL as far as Tesla is concerned.

    • Tesla Salvage Vehicle Release:

      Name: Xxxxxxxxxxx
      Address: ​
      Telephone: ​ E-mail:

      Make: TESLA​​Model: Model S​​Year: 2013​​VIN:

      By your signature below on this Authorization and Release for Inspection of Salvage Vehicle (“Authorization”), the customer named above (“you” or “your”) represents and warrants that you are the owner of the salvage vehicle identified above (“Salvage Vehicle”). You authorize and give consent to Tesla Motors, Inc. (“Tesla”), including any of Tesla’s Service Centers or a Tesla-certified body shop, to do a complete inspection of the Salvage Vehicle, including without limitation to access, download and interpret any Salvage Vehicle log data, and agree to pay the cost of such inspection based on actual labor performed pursuant to the invoice to be provided to you by Tesla.

      As further consideration for Tesla’s inspection, you represent, warrant, acknowledge and agree that:
      (1) the Salvage Vehicle has been labeled or branded as dismantled, fire-damaged, flood-damaged, junk, rebuilt, salvage, reconstructed, irreparable or a total loss or has been determined to be a total loss by an insurance company and pursuant to its terms, the New Vehicle Limited Warranty and any and all express and implied warranties have been voided or are not applicable with respect to the Salvage Vehicle;
      (3) all inspections, service or repairs on the Salvage Vehicle will be at your expense and the Salvage Vehicle will not qualify for the purchase of any Tesla extended service agreements or Tesla Service prepaid maintenance plans;
      (4) if Tesla determines that repairs must be made to the Salvage Vehicle, Tesla will not service the Salvage Vehicle until you repair the Salvage Vehicle to Tesla’s satisfaction pursuant to a subsequent inspection. Any such repairs and subsequent inspections are not included in the cost of the initial inspection and will be at your expense. Tesla will provide you with a written estimate of all such repairs and written notification that the Salvage Vehicle should not be driven unless such repairs are made;
      (5) if Tesla determines that sufficient repairs cannot be made to the Salvage Vehicle, Tesla will not service the Salvage Vehicle and provide you with written notification that the Salvage Vehicle cannot be sufficiently repaired and should not be driven;
      (6) Tesla will not sell any vehicle replacement parts directly to you or any non-Tesla certified body shop;
      (7) you release and discharge Tesla and any and all of its past, present and future entities, affiliates or persons (including, without limitation, all stockholders, officers, directors, employees and attorneys) and all persons or entities acting on or for its or their behalf (“Released Parties”) of and from all claims, complaints, demands, damages, liabilities, actions and causes of action of every kind (including without limitation alleged breaches or violations of express or implied warranties or any state or federal lemon law, warranty, consumer fraud or consumer protection statutes), known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, arising out of or in any way connected with the Salvage Vehicle (“Claims”) and will indemnify, defend and hold harmless the Released Parties from and against any and all Claims from third parties;
      (8) you will not commence, participate or aid in any action at law or in equity or any legal proceeding against any of the Released Parties based in whole or in part upon or related to any Claim and have not sold, assigned, or transferred to any person or entity any Claims;
      (9) you have a copy of the Model S owner’s guides, either in digital format or in hard copy, and will make it available to all drivers, users, and any subsequent purchasers of the Salvage Vehicle; and
      (10) you will provide a copy of this Authorization and any written notifications provided by Tesla to any subsequent purchasers of the Salvage Vehicle and obtain their written agreement to be bound by this Authorization as a part of the consideration to the transaction.

      If any clause or provision of this Authorization is deemed unenforceable through court order, the remainder of this Authorization will remain in effect and be fully enforceable. The failure of Tesla or any Released Party to enforce at any time any provision of this Authorization shall not be construed to be a waiver of such provision, nor in any way to affect the validity of this Authorization or any part hereof or the right of any party thereafter to enforce each and every such provision.



      Signature: ​​​​​Date: ​​​​

      Name: ​​​​​​​
      Tesla Motors, Inc. ©2014 (v.05012014)

  10. Carry on Otmar
    I am confident that Elon will amend this issue in the future, being a reasonable man he will find a suitable compromise. I don’t know what to make of Jack Rickard lately his ‘army’ delusion is comical yet his attempt at alienating others from his playground is childish.

    Looking forward to future updates!

  11. Hi Otmar,
    I am from Germany. As i have also an old vanagon wetfalia and am interested in Tesla i followed your blog from the beginning. I admire your skills in rebuilding the tesla and like your crazy idea of the stretchla.
    I ordered a Model S in July and i am looking forward to my delivery in october. Now i am really shocked of Teslas policy concerning your Tesla and their policy of forcing their customers to use their garages. If this will be known by public in Germany this will have a very bad influence on Teslas image here-
    In Germany its normal that you don’t go to the brands garage if your car is older than 4 years or so. And i found it quite annoying, that they won’t let you charge on the supercharger. Please keep me informed on the issue.


  12. Hi Uli,
    Congratulations on your new Tesla!
    I’m sure that will be a wonderful auto for you.

    Honestly I suspect that Tesla will have to evolve the policy on independent service access pretty soon. Not doing that would be harmful to their image. I suspect that customers like you asking them about it will make things improve faster.

  13. Tesla’s possible evolution of independent service will likely be similar to that with creating a “tesla approved” program for body shops. There are 3 in Southern California, in Van Nuys, San Diego, and Orange County. They work directly with Tesla Factory reps, who visit often to inspect damaged cars. Some countries and states, like Norway, require that independent service is available. This is not unusual for things like Brakes, Tires, and Windshield wipers. Servicing anything else on a Tesla Model S will require factory or factory trained people.

    • From Elon Musk’s blog today;

      “The Tesla Model S drive unit warranty has been increased to match that of the battery pack. That means the 85 kWh Model S, our most popular model by far, now has an 8 year, infinite mile warranty on both the battery pack and drive unit. There is also no limit on the number of owners during the warranty period.

      Moreover, the warranty extension will apply retroactively to all Model S vehicles ever produced. ”

      Except … for our salvage title model S 85 cars, as stated in all caps in the document above that Tesla Motors made me sign before their service center would look at my car. They then charged me $350. to turn me away. I got a car wash.
      I had a possible option of spending $40k
      at their approved body shop, a sort of extortion to begin to consider a turn on of supercharging for my car. This vertical integration where your car can be denied refueling is a dark harbinger indeed.

  14. I agree that Tesla is going to need to change that policy, and soon. While Tesla customer service is great, the workmanship at the Service Centers is very poor. They sometimes scratch/break stuff, and fail to replace/notify. Definitely not on par with other high end places.

    Just an FYI. Taking the sim card out from behind the touchscreen on a salvage car will prevent being locked out from supercharging. It will not affect much of anything else, since salvage cars get no remote support, or firmware updates.

  15. It will not enable supercharging if it’s turned off, but it will prevent Tesla from turning it off remotely on a salvage vehicle.

    • That”s what I thought. So if supercharging is already turned off you’re screwed. I hope Otmar has disabled 3G – at last check his supercharging was still on.

    • So supercharger disabling is performed on the vehicle itself, rather then the supercharger station?

      I would assume, the supercharger has a list of autorized serial numbers (pulled from an online database) who can access the supercharger.
      If it is the vehicle software who decide, than it is a matter of “cracking”.

      Sadly the userbase is very limited so no usual software cracks, unless somebody steps up for the exercise.

      It is really a shame for Tesla itself. I now understand why everybody is calling Tesla is the new Apple. The same wallen garden.

      I’m coming here for the sake of hacking, so please continue on. It is always educational and entertaining.


  16. Any new updates on the Strechla? I think it’s still a cool project even if you can’t use the superchargers or get parts directly from Tesla. I think Tesla will have to change their policy once they start selling millions of cars on the road and once there are many out of warranty cars out there, but for now while the company is still young, they really have to protect the brand fiercely (we all know there are a lot of people gunning for them) and that means controlling things tightly.

    • Auctions (sites) for Teslas should require the inspection by Tesla and documentation and repair estimate to be able to return vehicle to road service, before listing. As a potential buyer I can’t access the vehicle to perform this prior to purchase, and afterwards is too late. As soon as I learned of this (I called Tesla to inquire) I stopped looking at their auctions. I asked Tesla to provide web access to investigate a VIN but they responded with the “have it inspected”. Clearly impossible for an auction buyer pre purchase.

  17. Pingback: Gas 2 | Bridging the gap between green heads and gear heads.

  18. One can argue that the Stretchla is not a Tesla at all. It is a custom-made vehicle that makes use of Tesla parts. Moreover, it is compatible with the Tesla supercharging system. Tesla has indicated that it would look favorably upon other car makers having access to the supercharging network so long as their vehicles are compatible and they share the cost in proportion to use. I wonder whether you can appeal for access to supercharging on that basis. With a fleet of exactly one vehicle, your contribution to the cost of the network should not be too large (and will shrink rapidly over time).

    • One can argue many things! 😉
      In my case, my complete running car that you argue is not a Tesla already was bought and paid for lifetime supercharging. So I would expect that I would not need to pay for it again.

      • Tesla might argue that being a salvage vehicle it’s “life” is over, and you’re driving one of the “undead” 😉

  19. Arthur, I’m afraid there is not much to update on the Stretchla.
    Life has been busy and got in the way. I did collect a few more parts. I also found a donor van for the side body panel that I need. I bought a surrogate camper to get me to TMC connect and hold me over and now I’m feeling the desire to catch up on some camping after being stuck at home for over a year.
    I’m still very excited to get back to working on it soon, but October is looking pretty full. Hopefully by November I can get back into it.

  20. Mr Otmar, it seems a shame to let a tesla of any sort go to waste and i was browsing craiglist drooling at some teslas. I came accross one of the parts you would need to make your tesla functional, for a price i think is very resonable for being a tesla part. The whole “Radiator Support W/ CONDENSER AND FANS”, best of luck jose.

  21. six months since the last update. I’m looking forward to the next installment. I hope the weather this time of year is suitable for bodywork and painting, or you have heat in the garage.

    • My how time flies! I had not realized how long it’s been.
      The Garage Mahal is good and comfortable with its heated floor, no problem there. Today it is a bit cold but very soon I’ll have finished wiring extra banked energy from the oversize solar array on my new house next door and the heat will be turned back on.
      I want to get back in a “working on the Stretchla” state of being, but I’ve been doing many other things instead. Hopefully my motivation will resume before too long since I’m looking forward to having it done. Next is still climbing the bodywork mountain. I have yet to take the first step on that journey. We all know a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and then things get easier. I’ve considered writing a post about what else I’ve been doing instead, but it’s so off topic that I hesitate to do that.
      I’ll be sure to post as soon as I start moving on it again, hopefully that will be soon. Thank you all for your patience and interest.

  22. Otmar, I trust you and believe in you. I know you will fly past these roadblocks to the benefit of us all. Cheers.

  23. Catching up by hand on your blog — no wonder no new G+ posts! Very sad state of affairs.

    A drastic divergence, but: can you strip out the battery, charging system and motors and install those? No, yeah, I get it — you lose so much Tesla goodness, with so many additional systems. But it might get you a Stretchla that can be supercharged.

    Such a divergent approach would be a one-way ticket for sure. You’d never rebuild all that Tesla goodness, ripping the heart out of it all. But that’s a half way between all and nothing…

    I signed the Right to Repair stuff (or sent all the emails. I said that kids need to fix things with their parents to become innovators.

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