All the news, concept cars and reveals from Japan’s largest automotive event
24 October 2019

Welcome to Autocar’s extended coverage of the Tokyo motor show, one of Japan’s biggest automotive events and the first chance to see many of the cars Japanese manufacturers will be bringing to Europe in the next few years.

Show report

This year, Tokyo bore witness to car makers’ lively imaginations, demonstrating a transition beyond the ubiquitous role of electrification to a more futuristic vision for the automotive industry.

Toyota made the biggest statement, not even featuring a car on its stand - despite revealing many for the show. The nearest it came to a car on its stand was the funky e-Racer, a two-seat fun-to-drive car intended to emphasise the firm’s belief that a future with autonomous cars will still have room for driving enthusiasts.

If you looked hard enough, the Toyota LQ self-driving hatchback was hidden among an interactive part of the show, which also included a giant screen and people live-gaming racing in the Japanese Super GT race series. The LQ is proof if you ever required it that autonomous pods need not be bland. 

More production-ready is the Mirai concept – to arrive in production form in 2021 – which has come on leap years in styling over the current model. 

Back to the space age: Toyota’s premium brand Lexus showed the LF-30 Electrified concept car complete with roof-mounted doors and a dramatically short rear. Despite the futuristic design, which hints at Lexus design in 2030 and beyond, it is underpinned by a new electric platform to be used on Lexus and Toyota EVs from 2022, making it more immediately relevant.

Suzuki revealed three concepts, including the Hanare autonomous pod and the compact Waku SPO. All have retro styling, intended to hark back to Suzuki’s heritage, the brand’s designer Takafumi Ogisu told me, but the most interesting was the Waku for its ability to change body shape. At the press of a button, the estate rear of the car moves into the boot space, morphing into a coupé.

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The idea, said Ogisu, is that you can enjoy driving when it’s a coupé model, while in estate form it is more practical with more rear passenger space. Unsurprisingly, there are no plans for production, but it presents an interesting case for the future of motoring, in which we could both enjoy driving but also sit back and let the car drive us.

Another exciting design was Mitsubishi’s Mi-Tech compact SUV concept, which hints at the styling of the next ASX due in 2021. It previews new technology: a downsized plug-in hybrid range-extender system that replaces the petrol engine used in Mitsubishi’s existing plug-in hybrid drivetrain with a gas-turbine engine-generator. 

A touch more realistic on the design front was Nissan’s Ariya concept, previewing the long-awaited electric SUV that will arrive in the next two years. “When Nissan gives a car a real name, rather than a codename, it is always because the car is approaching production,” revealed head of design Alfonso Albaisa.

And then there were the less dramatic but production-ready models, staid compared with the flair of models such as the Mi-Tech and e-Racer but important nonetheless. 

Mazda revealed its first electric model, the MX-30, adopting the RX-8’s rear-hinged doors. It will offer a humble 130 miles of range, but Mazda’s reasoning has logic. It said it has chosen a smaller battery to achieve better emissions through the entire life cycle of a car. Its research has found that a 35.5kWh battery (as the MX-30 uses) produces fewer emissions overall than a petrol-powered Mazda 3 or an EV using a 95kWh battery (as the Audi E-tron does). 

Honda unveiled its latest Jazz, an evolutionary model if ever there was one. More prudent is Honda’s decision to only offer a hybrid powertrain. As its biggest-selling car in the UK, that will go some way to helping Honda achieve its emissions targets.

But electrification didn’t entirely kill off traditionally fuelled cars at the show. The latest Subaru Levorg, due to go on sale next year, uses a 1.8-litre turbocharged engine, while the Alpina B3 BiTurbo saloon employs a re-engineered version of BMW's 3.0-litre six-cylinder petrol engine, with twin-turbocharging and a performance cooling system to deliver 462bhp and 516lb ft of torque. 

Alpine also made a first, arguably unlikely, appearance at the Tokyo motor show, showcasing its flagship A110S model. A spokesman said that of more than 6000 sold worldwide so far, 400 have been in Japan – a not inconsiderable 15%. 

Despite these nods to more traditional cars, the show inevitably had electrification at its core, but managed to excite and engage with bold new visions of what electrifying a car can mean both from a technology and a design standpoint. 

Tokyo motor show live blog

12:00 GMT Wednesday 23 October

The convention centre has emptied after a busy press day, but there's still plenty of Tokyo motor show news to digest for those of you not running on Japanese time.

Subaru was among the last manufacturers to reveal a new model, unveiling the Levorg prototype as a 'grand touring' estate car that uses the company's global platform and a newly-developed 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol engine.

Nissan was primarily focused on its new concepts at this year's show, but product planning boss Ivan Espinosa still had some words for fans of the brand's Z car line-up. Although he didn't share specifics, we can apparently "expect something soon" on replacements for both the 370Z and GT-R. Yamaha, meanwhile, ruled out further developments with its car programme, instead choosing to focus its efforts elsewhere.

Toyota was hoping to make self-driving cars fun with its e-racer concept, a two-seater that could be experienced on a race track at Toyota's stand - albeit in virtual reality.

11:00 GMT Wednesday 23 October

Don't get your hopes up about the gas turbine range extender technology Mitsubishi has today revealed ever making it into production. Engineering boss Hiroshi Nagoka said that the technology had only been in development at Mitsubishi for a short time, and it was a long way from proving itself in areas including heat management and control, and suitable materials for durability. That said, it is now the subject of an "advanced development" programme.

"Love this old-school approach," says Rachel Burgess: a journalist note-taking on a clipboard at the Alpine press conference. All the better for the amazing neatness of the Japanese language.

Could kei cars provide the answer to the death of the city car in Europe? Perhaps, says Mitsubishi's Hiroshi Nagoka. However, while the cars could be engineered to meet the stricter safety and emissions, doing so would reduce the wafer-thin margins on the cars even more, making it a complete non starter.

 

10:30 GMT Wednesday 23 October

An unusual sight for a press conference of a Japanese car company: a female executive on stage. Takeuchi-san is the project manager for the new MX-30 and also happens to be one of the best test drivers at Mazda, an insider tells me.

Takeuchi-san remained coy on the firm's broader EV strategy, saying: "The first thing for us to do is to deliver the MX-30 to Europe." We do, however, know that all Mazda models will have an electrified variant by 2030. That's later than plenty of its rivals, but Mazda is going against the grain by continuing to develop petrol and diesel engines alongside electrification. Only last week, the European R&D boss told me that a next-generation diesel powertrain will launch next year.

We thought Frankfurt show was big... despite Tokyo’s equivalent being far reduced to previous years, one hall is far away from the others - so far you take the monorail, then walk through a shopping complex to get there.

10:00 GMT Wednesday 23 October

“I like a model car as much as the next man, but Tomica is once again excelling itself in Tokyo” says Jim Holder.

"I'd never buy one for myself or my wife today," says Nissan's product planning boss Ivan Espinosa of a current Japanese kei car, of which his company makes several... Espinosa believes them to be too slow and noisy to the current regulations and more ideally suited to electric tech, hence the creation of the firm's new IMk concept.

Half of all Mitsubishi’s sales in Japan are kei cars, and the largest kei segment is for tall MPVs. So don’t underestimate the significance of the Super Height K-Wagon concept revealed today in a Tokyo. These MPVs are quite peculiar-looking things but Mitsubishi’s at least integrates the need to maximising space into a design with cohesion.

Gargantuan screen in play at the interactive section of the show, where gamers are on stage racing in Gran Turismo Sport.

09:30 GMT Wednesday 23 October

Suzuki has managed to make the increasingly common, boxy autonomous car vision cool with this Hanare concept. If only it were showing rugby rather than football, it would combine the two most popular events in Japan right now...

Could the production version of Nissan's Ariya SUV be built in Sunderland? As ever, it will come down to whichever Nissan plant can offer the best cost effectiveness while making the car closest to potential customers, says product planning boss Ivan Espinosa.

Bizarrest moment of the show so far was Toyota boss Akio Toyoda unveiling an e-broom. While no technical details were given it appeared to have an electric wheel at the end of the brush that propelled a man on rollerskates around the show stage. "It doesn't fly yet," he rued, as the slightly bemused audience looked on…

09:00 GMT Wednesday 23 October

Strange name for a car is Hustler, as Suzuki has used on its new compact SUV here today. The model is not a dodgy mag nor a dodgy conman, but rather a Jimny crossed with an MPV. It is charming without the desirability of the Jimny SUV that’s captured hearts.

Jim Holder told you earlier about the Honda F1 history exhibit. Intriguingly, there seems to be a rather large gap in it with both the cars and pictures on the wall where it jumps straight from the 2006 Honda to last year’s Toro Rosso.

2020 Olympic Games preparations mean this year’s Tokyo motor show is split between several sites, one of which requires a bus ride and a lot of patience to get to. An address to Toyota president Akio Toyoda awaits if the line ever moves...

08:30 GMT Wednesday 23 October

The most popular interior of the Tokyo motor show? Surely the Lexus LF-30 Electrified concept, where you have to wait in line just to be able to stick your head in. Thank goodness for popular automotive news websites!

Kei cars have plenty of life in them in Japan, as editor Tisshaw notes here. Nissan design boss Alfonsa Albaisa, talking about the new IM_K concept revealed today, said: "IM-K is so much innovation in such a little box. Kei cars go all the back to 1949. The IM-K shows how Nissan is taking it into the future meeting new customer needs."

Talking at the reveal of the Ariya, Albaisa said that the concept "represents an entirely new design direction for Nissan," adding that it shows "a strong hint at the design of our future EVs". Nissan won't confirm it but we're confident a production version of this will arrive next year.

08:00 GMT Wednesday 23 October

Next to Alpine is, unsurprisingly, Renault. It’s a humble stand but more than the French maker had at this year’s Frankfurt’s. It’s revealing the Lutecia here. What’s that? The Clio for the Japanese market with a less catchy name.

The economics of buying a battery-electric vehicle are not good enough yet, according to Toyota’s chief technical officer Shigeki Terashi. While the world’s largest car maker has been notably slow to market with BEVs, arguing for some time they didn’t represent a viable, whole-life solution to environmental issues, it is now on the cusp of launching a raft of cars. However, Terashi says much more work must be done to persuade buyers to use them on scale. “The performance is lagging to make them desirable economically,” he said. “The cost of the battery versus the savings it offers is still too great, but we are working on that.”

While we’re on that subject, Terashi also launched a passionate defence of Toyota’s position regarding BEVs, reminding Tokyo show goers that the firm introduced the RAV4 BEV in 1997, developing a second-generation model with Tesla battery tech for sale from 2012-2014, plus the firm’s leadership with hybrid technology via the Prius. “We are still learning, and today batteries durability and cost need to be improved, but the most important thing to remember is that we have invested our expertise here,” he said.

Ever wanted to see a Nissan Figaro crossed with a BMW Z3 coupe? Suzuki has answered your prayers with the Waku. More motor show attention grabber than serious production intent, this one.

07:45 GMT Wednesday 23 October

Alpine is at Tokyo show for for the first time. Spokesman says of more than 6000 sold worldwide so far, 400 of those have been in Japan, a not inconsiderable 15%. It has just revealed the A110S, already seen in Europe.

Is the dream of a rebirth for the Evo still alive within Mitsubishi? Officially, there are no plans, and that high performance driving will be realised through such things as the four motor technology demonstrated in the Mi-Tech concept. Unofficially, there are still no plans, but the chances of Evo being reborn as a model in its own right have never been more remote following a change in leadership after Carlos Ghosn’s fall from grace.

Most Western manufacturers are only noticeable here by their absence but one bucking the trend is Mercedes. Nothing here that we haven’t already seen at Frankfurt - such as the V-Class and GLB - but there’s plenty of saloons and SUVs. Oh and a drum kit ready for some live music…

07:15 GMT Wednesday 23 October

“Hard to explain the swell of people for the Nissan press conference but it’s fair to say it’s as many people as I’ve yet seen at a press conference at a show in 12 years…” reckons Jim Holder. They’re queueing to see the reveal of the Ariya concept, otherwise known as a preview of the Leaf SUV.

Chatting to Mazda UK boss Jeremy Thomson, he reckons that by the time the MX-30 arrives in the UK in early 2021, the electric crossover can account for three to five per cent of Mazda sales, betting on a jump of the overall EV market share which is year-to-date 1.4%.

Mitsubishi is committed to plug in hybrids rather than full EVs, so has today demonstrated how it can adapt the technology to smaller cars with the Mi-Tech concept. It uses a gas turbine generator to four high-output electric motors, and the generator can be powered by several fuels including kerosene, alcohol and diesel. Mitsubishi claims a lower combustion temperature for the generator reduces certain emissions, including NOX.

06:45 GMT Wednesday 23 October

Mazda has revealed its MX-30 and namechecked two of its most popular models past and present. Takeuchi- san said: “Like the MX-5 is still loved after 30 years, we wanted to make the MX-30 a familiar presence, too.” Referencing the MX-30’s doors, he added: “Just like the RX-8, MX-30 makes the most of the freestyle doors to balance design and comfort.”

Car makers will eventually have to take liability for any accidents involving their autonomous vehicles, according to Gill Pratt, the chief executive officer of the Toyota Research Institute. The issue has long been hotly debated, with some makers saying they will never accept the liability in the event of a crash. However, speaking in Tokyo Pratt said;  “As we move towards autonomous cars, the crash rate will be lower than now but it will not be zero. When that does happen, there will really only be one thing left to take responsibility – the company that made the product. For more insight on Pratt’s views on autonomy, and why public opinion stands to hold back its uptake, click here.

It’s ten years since Honda dropped F1 and left Jenson Button to win the world title with Merc power, but the firm is including one of its works era cars on a display celebrating its motorsport heritage in Tokyo. There’s no doubting the star of the four-wheeled show, though: Ayrton Senna’s title-winning Honda-powered McLaren.

06:00 GMT Wednesday 23 October

Good morning from the UK. Almost no tastes go uncatered for over on the Honda stand. As well as the cars and motorbikes you might expect, there’s a lawn mower, some outboard boat engines (one the size of a person) and a model of a Honda Jet (and full-size engine). No wonder the NSX is struggling to draw a crowd...

Battery electric car buyers need to keep a keen sense of perspective when evaluating different models on paper, particularly around range, according to Toyota’s chief technical officer Shigeki Terashi. “If you take Japan as an example, different applications have very different needs,” he said. “A 100km range car in the city might be too much - and too expensive - whereas in a rural, depopulated area the needs may be greater or lesser. What’s important is providing the right product for buyers.”

Mazda is revealing its first EV today but one car will always have pride of place for the maker: the MX-5, which despite relatively small volume, remains crucial to Mazda’s line-up thanks to its cult following and fun driving dynamics.

02:30 GMT Wednesday 23 October

The big reveals keep coming at the Tokyo show. Already we've had the new Honda Jazz, Mitsubishi's innovative Mi-Tech concept, and the Nissan Ariya electric SUV among others from the likes of Suzuki and Alpine. Stay tuned, as big reveals from Mazda, Toyota, Lexus and Subaru are all still to come. 

23:00 GMT Tuesday 22 October

What’s the difference between being a car maker and a mobility company? Toyota thinks it has the answer, and believes it’s best boiled back to its involvement as a sponsor of next year’s Paralympics and the work it is doing to work with athletes to improve their mobility and therefore make their lives better. Some of Toyota’s wackier Tokyo motor show concepts over the years may have raised a few eyebrows, but what’s clear is that this is a company that’s making itself a part of more people’s lives in more ways than ever. You can read more about its mission - and our perceived leadership of it - here.

News that Toyota is preparing to showcase an autonomous car powered by solid state batteries at next year’s Olympic Games - potentially as part of the official opening or closing ceremony - made headlines, but the vehicle that will showcase the tech - the e-Palette - was first shown at the CES tech show in January 2018. What seems increasingly clear is that this awkward-looking pod-like vehicle is being increasingly used by Toyota to showcase its future technologies, and being evolved as its understanding develops. As such, insiders are saying that its Olympic outings (at least 12 lithium ion versions will also carry athletes around the Olympic Village) are unlikely to be the last we see of it.

Cow droppings to power cars? An unusual sentence to write, but a real-world example brought up by Toyota’s chief technical officer Shigeki Terashi as to why engineers and technologists shouldn’t be rail-roaded down single solutions to lower emissions from cars. “Methane is one interesting solution, which of course comes from cows,” he said. “Already there are many different ideas, and we must remain open to them.”

17:30 Tuesday 22 October

The show may not officially be under way just yet, but several manufacturers have pre-announced their new arrivals. Mitsubishi has teased a roofless electric SUV, Toyota's self-driving LQ concept promises to add artificial intelligence to your dashboard, and Mazda has confirmed its first electric car is on the way.

Several high-profile leaks seem to have given the game away for some of the biggest names at the show, with Japanese media revealing the updated Subaru Levorg and hybrid-only Honda Jazz before an official announcement, which is expected tomorrow.

Every edition of the biennial Tokyo motor show explores a different facet of Japan's unique automotive industry. Some put an unabashed focus on performance while others place technology front and centre. What never changes is that the event is dominated by Japanese carmakers - you won't hear much from European, American and other Asian brands, and the companies that display cars in Japan's capital are on a bold quest to show their wild side. This is their chance to shine on their home turf.

What's on Display in Tokyo

With much more than simply Japanese market cars on display at this year’s show, there will be lots to see inside the Big Sight convention centre. Our A-Z list contains every major new car reveal from the show:

Honda

2020 Jazz

The next-generation Honda Jazz (known as the Fit in some markets) will exclusively be available with petrol-electric hybrid powertrains. Honda previously explained it developed a more compact version of the twin-motor i-MMD hybrid technology that equips the CR-V to use in smaller cars. The fourth-generation supermini, which is known as the Fit in its home market, receieves a minor styling evolution over the old model, plus seats Honda claims are a comfy as a premium saloon's.

Jazz sales will begin in early 2020. Although it has historically lagged behind its rivals, it's a hugely important model because it's Honda's best-seller in the UK.

New hybrid-only Honda Jazz unwrapped at Tokyo

Lexus

LF-30 concept

The LF-30 is the concept that will take Lexus towards electrification, but doesn't directly link to one particular model. Instead, it uses a platform that will make its way into both Toyota and Lexus models in the near future. The concept, which is only slightly shorter than a Range Rover, uses in-wheel electric motors Lexus hopes will aid handling.

Inside the cabin, which is accessed through expansive gullwing doors, screens positioned on either side of the steering wheel display the infotainment system. The wheel can then retract into the dashboard for autonomous driving.

"We feel that our future could resemble this design,” Lexus vice-president Koji Sato told Autocar. 

Dramatic Lexus LF-30 concept unveiled 

Mazda

MX-30

Mazda's first ever production EV shuns now-familiar electric car tropes like one-pedal driving and silent motoring in favour of a more traditionally car-like experience. The MX-30 will deliver 141bhp and 195lb ft from an electric motor, while a 35.5kWh battery should provide a range of 130 miles - significantly less than some rival electric cars, but much more than the 30 miles Mazda says is typical of the average European customer.

It will arrive with reverse-opening rear doors, like the ones last seen on the RX-8 rotary-engined sports car.

Electric Mazda MX-30 receives RX-8-style doors​

Mitsubishi

Mi-Tech Concept

Mitsubishi's open-roof concept crossover primarily serves as a preview of its next plug-in hybrid drivetrain, which swaps the traditional combustion engine for a gas turbine generator. The company pointed out it made the powertrain smaller and lighter than the one currently found in the Outlander in order to electrify more compact models like the Eclipse Cross

The Mi-Tech uses four electric motors to power each wheel individually, though Mitsubishi isn't talking power specifics just yet. Inside, an augmented reality display covering the entire windscreen suggests this is won't be reaching production in its current form.

Mitsubishi Mi-Tech concept previews new hybrid powertrain​

Nissan

Ariya concept

Although Nissan isn't labelling it as such, the Ariya concept is perhaps a lot closer to production than it seems. Off-the-shelf door handles and a design that sticks closely to the company's existing line-up suggests this electric crossover could become a reality within the next few years - though perhaps without the advanced autonomous features mooted here in Tokyo.

The interior, while less likely to arrive in the form seen here, treads a lot closer to production reality than other concepts, with a wide cabin that makes the most of the EV platform's layout.

Nissan Ariya concept previews crossover EV

IMk concept

As with most Japanese kei cars, Nissan's new IMk concept is tall, boxy and geared towards urban mobility, but, in a break from convention, sits atop an all-new EV platform and showcases the firm's plans for the future of small cars. The concept builds upon Nissan's Intelligent Mobility programme with a lounge-style interior and lack of physical controls, and early suggestions are that it could be sold globally. 

Nissan reveals electric IMk city car concept

Subaru

2020 Levorg

The next generation of Subaru's Levorg estate arrives with a more streamlined design and an array of electronic driving aids. The company's teaser video noted we're "in an era where autonomous driving technology is widely spreading," with the scope of its EyeSight suite of driver assistance features expanded. 

New Subaru Levorg revealed as 'grand touring' estate

Suzuki

Waku 

Suzuki's big themes for Tokyo are mobility and personality, as embodied by its retro-styled show star - the Waku. An ultra compact plug-in hybrid, the Waku features a number of design elements that can be swapped out according to personal preference, and is intended for families to "share fun and excitement". 

Suzuki Waku: retro-styled PHEV concept revealed at Tokyo show

Hanare

The Hanare, taking its name from the Japanese for a small dwelling attached to a house, is Suzuki's take on the autonomous shuttle. As with the Waku, it blends futuristic technology with 1960s-style design elements, and is said to be fully customisable according to intended use. 

Suzuki shows retro-styled concepts set for Tokyo show

Toyota

Copen GR Sport

Packing a diminuitive 660cc three-cylinder engine and tipping the scales at well under 900kg, the Copen GR Sport is Toyota's take on the sporty kei car. It's based on the standard Copen from subsidiary company Daihatsu, and features a raft of chassis and styling upgrades aimed at enhancing driver appeal. There's no word on performance details as yet, but we do know it's not destined for European dealerships. 

Toyota unveils Copen GR Sport as hot compact convertible

LQ

The LQ is effectively a facelift of the 2017 Concept-i, an all-electric, self-driving hatchback, with cosmetic changes inside and out. More significantly, though, the technology is upgraded to reflect advancements since its first appearance, with Level 4 autonomy and a realistic new personal assistant designed to create a bond between owner and machine.

Toyota LQ concept is self-driving electric hatchback

Mirai Concept

Toyota's slow-selling hydrogen fuel cell car has been totally redesigned for 2020, with the Mirai Concept making its public debut at Tokyo sporting a long, low saloon bodystyle. The prototype pictured below, which is tipped to be close to production, is longer even than the current Camry, and features an interior that moves things on considerably from the old car.

Specific details regarding the powertrain are yet to be revealed, but we know Toyota promises improved performance and driving dynamics alongside a range increase of 30% compared to the outgoing car.

New Toyota Mirai fuel cell vehicle makes public debut

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Comments
6

15 October 2019
No sign of Yamahas city cars using i-stream

23 October 2019

Clearly manufacturers will have liability when an autonomous vehicle is involved in an accident and it's obvious that manufacturers will resist any liability - after all what has driven the rise of tech companies is the ability to operate in a very laissez faire environment.

The difficulty for investigators is going to be how they build a case, particularly where a self driven car collides with a vehicle driven by a human or collides with a pedestrian. At the minute the police can use their superior resources to push through prosecutions (see the secret barrister for further details). The police in future will be up against well funded corporations and RTAs may take on the nature of an HSE investigation with potentially complex court cases attempting to ascertain liability.

23 October 2019

I thought an updated GT86/BRZ was being showcased at this event? Is there no sign of it?

That's probably the only interesting thing that was promised!

23 October 2019

So far I'm pretty unimpressed. But yes to Kei cars becoming more available globally. The Japanese are way ahead of us here.

23 October 2019
flukey wrote:

I thought an updated GT86/BRZ was being showcased at this event? Is there no sign of it?

That's probably the only interesting thing that was promised!

 

"The only"...are you blinkered?.

24 October 2019

Well maybe if you're over 60 then the Jazz appeals to you, but otherwise it's 90% concepts that will never see production. Even the outliers are poor. 

-Alpine A110s ? "we turned up the boost pressure on the turbo and charged you 7k for it"

-Toyota Mirai - This is dead on arrival like the previous car because there are 12 hydrogen fuel stations in the UK, and the fuel is more expensive than petrol.

-'Toyota' copen - Not available in the UK but kinda interesting I guess

- Mazda MX-30 "We made a car that looks like the MG ZS EV, somehow has less range, and costs 10,000 more, with less than half of the warranty"

 

So that leaves us with the Subaru Levorg... 

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