Tag Archive | "Toyota Motor Corp."

Toyota Dumps Its Forecast

Toyota Motor Corp., still recovering from a devastating earthquake that struck Japan in March, scrapped its annual earnings forecasts Tuesday because of new supply disruptions resulting from massive floods in Thailand.

The latest natural disaster, coming on the heels of the quake and deadly tsunami, a safety recall crisis and a collapse in Toyota’s most lucrative market, the United States, has frustrated the automaker’s recovery efforts — and created opportunities for rivals that once trailed the Japanese giant, according to The Detroit News.

Toyota is also grappling with the effects of a surging yen, which is gutting the profitability of its Japanese operations. The yen’s appreciation wiped $1 billion from its earnings for the July-September quarter, the second of the Japanese fiscal year.

Toyota reported an 18.5 percent drop in quarterly profit on Tuesday to 80.4 billion yen, or$1 billion, and a 32 percent drop in operating earnings to 75.4 billion yen, or $940 million.

While Japan’s auto industry has been recovering from the March quake and tsunami, Toyota’s quarterly sales were down 5 percent from a year earlier at 4.57 trillion yen, or $58.7 billion.

Company officials said Toyota is assessing the impact of widespread floods in Thailand.

“It looked as though they were about to get back on track and then got hit by this latest derailment,” said Chintan Talati at Santa Monica, Calif.-based pricing specialist TrueCar.com.

Toyota, which was the world’s biggest automaker last year, was in third place at the end of June, behind U.S. rival General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG of Germany.

In the U.S., Toyota’s market share has shrunk by four points to 12.6 percent since 2008, according to TrueCar. A resurgent Ford Motor Co. has picked up 2.5 points of share over the same period, but the biggest beneficiary of Toyota’s troubles appears to be South Korea’s Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group. Its share of the U.S. market has jumped to 9 percent from 5.2 percent.

In addition to the natural disasters, Toyota is struggling with a surge in its currency to near record levels. A dollar was worth 78 yen during the second quarter, down from 86 yen a year earlier. At that level, Japan’s vehicle exports aren’t competitive.

The automaker is trying to maintain production in Japan of 3 million vehicles a year. But as that figure is more than double the domestic consumption, Toyota is trying to increase sales in Japan and reduce the domestic content in its vehicles, Toyota Senior Managing Officer Takahiko Ijichi said on an investor call. Among the countermeasures the company is studying, it may import more foreign-made components to Japan, he said.

For the first half of the fiscal year running from April 1 through Sept. 30, Toyota’s profit slid 72 percent to 81.5 billion yen, or $1 billion. Its half-year revenue was down 17 percent at 8.02 trillion yen, or $103 billion.

Vehicle sales declined to 3.6 million from 4.2 million a year earlier.

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Toyota Recalls 550,000 Vehicles After Detecting Potential Steering Defect

Toyota Motor Corp., Asia’s biggest carmaker, recalled the most number vehicles in more than eight months after the company detected a potential flaw that may suddenly affect steering.

Toyota recalled about 550,000 vehicles worldwide to replace the crankshaft pulley on the V6 engine, Amiko Tomita, a spokeswoman for the automaker said by phone today. About 80 percent of the vehicles are in the U.S., she said.

“If this condition is not corrected, the belt for the power steering pump may become detached from the pulley and the driver may notice a sudden increase in steering effort,” Toyota said in a statement.

The maker of the Camry sedan recalled millions of U.S. vehicles last year and in 2009, mostly for defects related to unintended acceleration, and paid a record $48.8 million in fines because of the way some of the recalls were conducted, according to Bloomberg. The recalls caused the Toyota City-based company to briefly halt sales of some models in 2010 and contributed to its 0.4 percent U.S. sales decrease last year, the only such decline among large automakers.

No accidents have been reported, Tomita said.

The vehicles being recalled are the 2004 Avalon, the 2004 and 2005 Camry and 2006 Highlander HV. Within the Lexus brand, the 2004 and 2005 ES330, the RX330 and the 2006 RX400h are being recalled, according to the statement.

Toyota rose 1.6 percent to 2,542 yen at the close of trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange while the benchmark Nikkei 225 climbed 1.2 percent. The carmaker’s shares have slumped 21 percent this year, compared with a 14 percent drop for the Nikkei 225.

The carmaker recalled 1.7 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles in January for defects in fuel pipes and pumps, pressure sensors and spare tire carriers. It called back 2.17 million in February for carpet and floor-mat flaws that could jam gas pedals.

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Lexus Chief Predicts Weak Sales

NAGOYA — The head of Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus brand said global sales of the upscale vehicles will likely fall short of last year’s total, with the brand set to lose its long-held status as the No. 1 luxury car in the U.S.

“We would have ended up at the same level as last year, but now we’re probably going to be short,” Lexus marketing and product planning general manager Karl Schlicht said in an interview.

He blamed the likely fall on a combination of natural disasters in Japan and Thailand, a stronger yen against the dollar and tougher competition in the luxury market, reported The Wall Street Journal.

In 2010, Lexus sold 410,000 vehicles globally, of which 229,000 were sold in the U.S. That was down from the brand’s all-time peak global sales of 518,000 vehicles in 2007, including a record 329,000 in the U.S.

Last month, its U.S. Lexus Division’s sales fell 14.2 percent from a year ago to 18,092 vehicles. Through Oct. 31, total U.S. Lexus sales were 153,739, down 16.2 percent from the same period a year ago, compared to BMW AG’s 246,888 vehicles.

Mr. Schlicht, the first non-Japanese manager to run Lexus, acknowledged the division is likely to relinquish its longtime position as the top-selling luxury brand in the U.S.

“To be honest, the competition has gotten stronger, but I don’t think it’s fair to say we lost the crown this year just because of that,” he said, noting production lost due to Japan’s March earthquake and the current flooding in Thailand.

Mr. Schlicht said there are no plans to move production of Lexus vehicles from Japan to markets such as the U.S. to cope with the yen’s surge to recent all-time highs.

But he indicated that could happen eventually if the Japanese currency stabilizes at the current elevated levels or strengthens further.

“Clearly [Toyota] management understands that if this persists or gets worse we may have to move some production” offshore, he said.

Currently, all Lexus models are made in Japan with the exception of some RX crossover sport utility vehicles sold in North America, which are produced in Ontario, Canada.

A higher yen erodes the value of dollar-denominated profits and makes Japanese exports less competitive overseas.

Mr. Schlicht said the fall from No. 1 in the U.S. will give Lexus some “breathing space” to prepare for new cars, such as a remodeled GS midsize sedan, noting the brand hasn’t introduced a full-size sedan since 2007.

“In some ways, it’s kind of a relief that allows us to change the brand direction a bit and refocus on the next generation of cars without having that heavy burden” of being the luxury sales leader in the U.S., Mr. Schlicht said.

The GS, due in showrooms in February, will showcase edgier styling—such as a new front grille with spindles—and a sporty ride, which Toyota hopes will help the brand appeal to younger drivers.

Noting that the average age of Lexus buyers is older than competing brands globally, Mr. Schlicht said the brand is positioning itself to broaden sales beyond the baby boomers that have been its core demographic.

“We’re trying to target a different kind of buyer to prepare for the next generation,” he said.

While the U.S. is by far the biggest market for Lexus, Mr. Schlicht said that he is encouraged by positive sales trends in China, Europe and Japan.

He noted that the new CT hybrid compact has done well in Europe and Japan, and said China was on track for a record year before the natural disasters disrupted supply.

Last year, Lexus sold 53,000 vehicles in China, 33,000 in Japan and 31,000 in Europe—its top three markets outside of the U.S.

Mr. Schlicht also said Lexus needs to broaden its lineup with more sporty two-door vehicles and hinted a successor to the discontinued SC coupe may be on display at the North American International Auto Show in January.

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Toyota, Honda Post U.S. Sales Decline for October as Nissan, Hyundai Gain

Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. posted U.S. sales declines for October, rather than the increases they had forecast, while Nissan Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. led gains among Asian carmakers amid improving demand.

Deliveries fell 7.9 percent from a year earlier for Toyota, Asia’s biggest automaker, and 0.5 percent for Honda, as both of the Japanese companies did better than analysts had estimated. Sales rose 18 percent for Nissan, 23 percent for Hyundai and 21 percent for Kia Motors Corp, reported Bloomberg. Overall U.S. auto sales grew 7.5 percent, according to Autodata Corp.

“We came up a little short,” Bob Carter, Toyota’s group vice president of U.S. sales, said on a conference call yesterday, blaming a lower-than-expected supply of Corolla small cars. A sales gain in October “was an aggressive goal, given our inventory situation at the time, but something we wanted to shoot for.”

Toyota and Honda are trying to rebound from output losses caused by Japan’s March earthquake and now must contend with possible parts shortages due to flooding in Thailand. Even with their declines, industrywide U.S. sales rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 13.3 million cars and light trucks, beating the 13.2 million average of 14 analyst estimates in a Bloomberg News survey. It was the fastest pace since February.

Toyota sales were expected to fall 9.1 percent, the average of five estimates. The average for Honda was a 2.5 percent drop.

Among U.S.-based competitors, General Motors Co.’s sales rose 1.7 percent, Ford Motor Co.’s grew 6.2 percent and Chrysler LLC reported a 27 percent increase.

Toyota fell 2.4 percent to 2,535 yen as of 9:25 a.m. in Tokyo trading, compared with a 2 percent decline in Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average. Honda lost 2.6 percent and Nissan dropped 2.5 percent. Hyundai lost 0.2 percent in Seoul.

“The pace for both Toyota and Honda through the first three weeks of the month was pretty strong, so it still seemed possible” that they would report sales gains, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst at TrueCar.com, an industry pricing and data service in Santa Monica, California. “The meltdown in the financial markets the last few days of the month and unseasonable weather in the East Coast did play a role in slowing sales at the end of the month.”

Toyota’s Carter forecast an October gain after the Toyota City, Japan-based company reported September sales. Tokyo-based Honda’s U.S. sales chief John Mendel predicted a sales increase in an interview last week.

Toyota reported sales of 134,046 Toyota, Lexus and Scion vehicles last month, a drop from 145,474 a year earlier.

The October decline cut Toyota’s U.S. market share for the month to 13.1 percent from 15.3 percent a year earlier, according to Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata.

Production is still improving, and supplies of the new Camry sedan jumped to 35,000 units for sale this month, Carter said. Still, Toyota canceled overtime shifts at North American plants in Indiana, Kentucky and Canada as it assesses the effect of the Thai floods on parts.

Honda, which Mendel estimates missed out on 200,000 deliveries since the March earthquake, may lose some U.S. and Canadian output through late December because of parts shortages caused by the floods, he told dealers this week.

“The Japanese, who are just putting inventory back on dealer lots, are now going to be again faced with more production shortfalls,” Maryann Keller, principal of a self- titled auto-industry consulting firm in Stamford, Connecticut, said in a Bloomberg Radio interview. U.S. auto sales are still “in a modest upward trend,” she said.

Honda’s October sales fell to 98,333 Honda and Acura vehicles from 98,811 a year earlier. The company said that adjusting for one fewer selling day compared with October 2010, the deliveries rose 3.3 percent.

The company’s market share for the month was 9.6 percent, down from 10.4 percent a year earlier, Autodata said.

Nissan, Japan’s second-largest automaker, said its U.S. sales rose 18 percent last month, beating the 16 percent average of five analyst estimates. The Yokohama-based company’s deliveries totaled 82,346, up from 69,773, including gains of more than 40 percent for Versa and Sentra small cars and a 37 percent increase for Juke crossovers.

Market share for Nissan rose to 8.1 percent from 7.3 percent, according to Autodata.

“We’d have done even better if it weren’t for that northeaster that screwed things up in the East Coast,” Al Castignetti, Nissan’s vice president of U.S. sales, said in an interview. He estimated that the Nissan brand lost about 1,000 sales last weekend as a result of the storm.

The U.S. Northeast’s biggest October snowstorm in decades knocked out power to more than 3 million homes and businesses.

Hyundai, South Korea’s largest automaker, reported a sales increase of 23 percent to 52,402 units for the month. The Seoul- based company’s gains were led by Sonata and Elantra sedans and the new three-door Veloster hatchback.

Kia, a Hyundai affiliate and South Korea’s second-biggest automaker, said its sales rose 21 percent to 37,690 vehicles, paced by deliveries of Optima sedans and Soul wagons.

Combined sales for the two companies, which operate separately, increased 22 percent in October. The average estimate of three analysts was for a 15 percent gain.

Hyundai’s U.S. market share advanced to 5.1 percent from 4.5 percent a year earlier, while Seoul-based Kia’s was up 0.4 percentage point to 3.7 percent, Autodata said.

“I don’t think Hyundai can continue to grow at this 20 percent pace next year,” said Toprak, the TrueCar analyst. “But we should still see stable growth for Hyundai and Kia through 2012.”

Subaru, the auto brand of Japan’s Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., reported a 12 percent decline, while Mazda Motor Corp.’s deliveries grew 1.7 percent. Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s sales declined 14 percent and Suzuki Motor Corp.’s fell 4.7 percent.

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Car Wreck: Honda and Toyota

Two years ago, Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. were among the most envied auto makers in the world. Today, the combination of a strong Japanese yen, two natural disasters and strategic missteps have made them among the most troubled.

On Monday, Honda said it was powerless to stop the forces afflicting it, withdrawing a profit forecast for the fiscal year and posting earnings that declined 56 percent on production disruptions and weak sales for the quarter ended Sept. 30, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Honda’s position bodes ill for other major Japanese car makers and exporters set to release their earnings in coming weeks. The dollar rose from recent postwar lows against the yen on Monday, up 3 percent at ¥78.18, but still shy of the level that big Japanese auto makers have based their fiscal-year forecasts. Honda now expects the dollar to average ¥75 for the second half of the fiscal year ending in March, compared with ¥80 previously.

A strong yen undermines the price competitiveness of Japanese-made autos and other goods and reduces the value of profits earned overseas.

On top of the high yen, Japan’s big exporters have been hit by a shortage of autos, electronics and other parts made in Thailand, where flooding has swamped a big swath of its industrial areas. Honda and Toyota both cut production at plants in the U.S., Canada and Asia as a result of the disruption.

Citing the uncertainty brought about by the Thai flooding, Honda officials said it might be difficult to resume production in Thailand in the next few months and a sales executive warned that some U.S. customer orders might not be delivered until December or January.

“Frankly speaking, there is nothing we can do,” Honda Chief Financial Officer Fumihiko Ike said Monday during a briefing on quarterly results. Honda last month said it would reduce exports from Japan by 50 percent over the next decade because of the strong yen.

Troubles related to the yen and the Thai floods come as both Honda and Toyota are working to get back to normal operations in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Because of shortages of vehicles made in its Japanese plants, Honda is on track to lose more than a percentage point of U.S. market share this year, and Toyota nearly three points of share.

Since the end of 2009, Toyota’s U.S. market share has dropped 4.5 percentage points to 12.5 percent through September, a staggering decline in its biggest and most profitable market.

But the problems go beyond production disruptions. Consumers aren’t as enamored with the two auto makers’ vehicles as they have been in the past. Toyota in particular was hurt by the recall and quality issues it suffered in 2010 that traced to a gas-pedal design that became trapped by floor mats.

Honda’s redesigned 2012 Civic compact has been heavily criticized for a less-than-luxurious interior and old technology. For example, it has a five-speed transmission while competitors including the Chevrolet Cruze and Hyundai Elantra, have a six-speed drive. Consumer Reports magazine, which for years gave the Civic glowing reviews, dropped the new model from its recommended list.

Now Honda must do a makeover on the Civic to spice up sales, said Rick Case, whose Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., dealership is among the largest in the U.S. “We’ve been going along pretty consistently for 40 years, until now. Now we don’t know what’s going to happen with it.”

Mr. Case said his store’s sales are finally starting to recover after months of supply shortages caused by the earthquake. His business will be up 20 percent in October compared to September. “But I’ll still be down 20 percent from a year ago,” he said.

At the same time, vehicles made by the Detroit auto makers have become more much competitive, and Hyundai Motor Co. of South Korea and Nissan Motor Co., which has ramped up production after the March earthquake much faster than Toyota and Honda, have been gaining customers.

Of all challenges Honda and Toyota face, the rising yen is the most serious, say industry experts. On Monday, the Japanese government, which is worried that companies will move production and jobs out of Japan to reduce costs, intervened to prop up the yen.

Honda is already rethinking its dependence on auto production in Japan. Earlier this year it said it is planning to build a plant in Mexico to produce the Fit subcompact, a car now exported from Japan. Nissan has made similar moves. It now produces one model in Thailand and exports it to Japan, a move that was once unthinkable. Japanese chip maker Elpida Memory Inc. and consumer electronics maker Panasonic Corp. also said they should or would shift production overseas.

So far, Toyota has resisted the trend, insisting it remains committed to making three million cars a year in Japan. It exports half of those vehicles. Toyota reports its second-quarter earnings on Nov. 8.

For its latest quarter, Honda said its profit fell to ¥60.4 billion ($796.5 million) from ¥135.9 billion a year ago. On Tuesday, analysts expect the company to report that its U.S. sales declined in October from a year ago.

The reversal of fortune for Toyota and Honda is a remarkable change because 2009 marked the bankruptcies of General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, a time when the U.S. market shares for Toyota and Honda reached their zenith.

Honda and Toyota are also well behind GM and Volkswagen AG in China, now the world’s largest auto market, and have dealt with labor discord there that other auto makers have been able largely to avoid.

“For a long time we’ve known the yen is going to continue to strengthen over time and Japan become a higher cost of production base, and those companies that were able to move more quickly to lower-cost countries will benefit,” said Jim Press, a former Toyota board member and chief of North American operations, who now consults for Nissan. “It’s a long-term trend and some have been able to be more proactive.”

Toyota, meanwhile, has been adamant about keeping a sizable production base in Japan. Earlier this year, it opened its first new domestic manufacturing plant in rural northeast Japan to export subcompacts. It’s difficult to make money on small cars even with normal exchange rates, but nearly impossible now.

Inside Toyota, there is division among the company’s leadership about moving more production outside its home market.

Chief Executive Officer Akio Toyoda has been steadfast in his desire to maintain plants in Japan, where he feels the expertise of the workers gives the company a global edge. But Chief Financial Officer Satoshi Ozawa has said on two occasions that he isn’t sure it is reasonable to continue doing so.

An adviser to Mr. Toyoda said he is fighting off pressure from other executives to shift more production out of the country, seeing the currency fluctuation as temporary.

Toyota is noted for taking a long view and is willing to wait for the yen to weaken rather than move production, which would require a 10-year training period for the company to feel workers and management are up to speed.

In the early 1990s, the yen strengthened and it hurt Toyota, but the currency later weakened again and led Toyota to report huge profits.

In fact, just five years ago, Toyota executives were privately complaining that they had overbuilt factories in the U.S. at the expense of Japan when the yen was trading at upwards of 120 to the U.S. dollar.

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VW Likely to Overtake Toyota as Top Carmaker in 2011, GM to Remain Second

Volkswagen AG will probably become the world’s biggest carmaker this year, vaulting past Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co. on gains in emerging markets.

The German company’s sales, third among carmakers in 2010, will probably rise 13 percent to 8.1 million vehicles this year, based on the average of three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. GM sales will gain about 8 percent to 7.55 million, while Toyota will drop 9 percent to 7.27 million, according to the survey.

VW sales in China may rise almost 20 percent in 2011 and more than double in India, according to estimates at researcher J.D. Power & Associates. That’s a contrast to Toyota, which is suspending Southeast Asian plants because of floods in Thailand, months after an earthquake crippled production in Japan.

“Emerging markets are at a stage of car-adoption by consumers and there is still a large space for sales to grow. said Jenny Gu, Shanghai-based senior markets analyst for J.D. Power. ‘‘VW realized this and put a lot of effort on emerging markets.’’

Estimates at J.D. Powers, IHS Automotive and PwC Autofacts were used to calculate the average projections.

Volkswagen had fallen 3.3 percent this year in German trading before today, weighed by concerns about the European debt crisis. Still, that’s a smaller decline than the 34 percent drop at Detroit-based GM and 20 percent at Toyota.

Toyota may regain the lead from VW next year as the recovery of the Japanese company’s facilities from the March earthquake will pave the way for the Toyota City-based automaker to sell 8.4 million cars, or half a million units more than VW, according to research firm IHS Automotive. J.D. Power projects VW will retain its lead in 2012, outselling Toyota by about 50,000 units.

‘‘Growth in China, Europe and the U.S. are major contributors to VW’s expansion but they obviously also benefit from Toyota’s own misfortunes,” said Daniel Schwarz, a Frankfurt-based analyst at Commerzbank AG who recommends buying VW stock. Schwarz forecast the Japanese passenger-car market to increase by a quarter next year after shrinking by about a fifth in 2011.

Wolfsburg, Germany-based VW, which also owns the Audi and Skoda brands, focused on boosting capacity and its network of dealerships as it built its brand in markets such as China and India, Gu said in a telephone interview.

Automakers are turning to developing economies for growth as sales in mature markets slow. China, the world’s second- largest economy, will grow 9.5 percent this year, six times the pace of the U.S. and euro area, according to International Monetary Fund estimates last month. The country is already the biggest auto market globally, with sales exceeding 18 million in 2010.

VW sales in China will probably reach 2.3 million units and 116,000 in India this year, with the two markets accounting for about a third of the company’s sales, according to J.D. Power estimates.

VW, which operates more than 60 factories worldwide, plans to spend a record 62.4 billion euros ($87 billion) — excluding its ventures in China — over the next five years to raise annual production to 10 million by 2018. VW’s Chinese joint ventures, which are not consolidated, will invest another 14 billion euros through 2016. The German company may reach the target three years ahead of schedule, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“VW is well positioned in key markets and has about the broadest model portfolio among the top competitors,” said Marc- Rene Tonn, a Hamburg-based analyst with M.M. Warburg, who recommends buying VW stock.

The company has forecast its global sales will increase 5 percent this year after posting a record 7.2 million deliveries in 2010. The German carmaker’s Audi luxury unit overtook Daimler AG’s Mercedes Benz as the world’s second-largest maker of high- end vehicles earlier this year, trailing only BMW AG.

VW, the first overseas carmaker to enter China three decades ago, is planning to add two plants and double production to 3 million cars annually. Audi is considering a new factory there to expand annual manufacturing to as high as 700,000 vehicles by 2015 as luxury demand increases, Dietmar Voggenreiter, its China president said on Oct. 20.

Still, VW faces hurdles with its partnership with Japanese carmaker Suzuki Motor Corp., whose venture in India is the top seller in the market. The German carmaker is also facing delays in a planned merger with Porsche SE.

Suzuki is seeking to end an alliance with its German partner after accusing it of violating a cooperation agreement by not sharing technology. VW has said it plans to keep its stake.

Ending the partnership with Suzuki would undermine the German automaker’s credit assessment, Moody’s Investors Service said in a statement today.

Toyota would be relinquishing its lead after last year’s record recalls, which has led President Akio Toyoda to say his key priorities will be focusing on customer satisfaction and restoring Toyota’s reputation.

Toyota temporarily halted all its plants to assess the impact of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Seven months later, the automaker is facing factory closures across Southeast Asia, triggered by Thailand’s worst floods in half a century.

Toyota’s shortfalls paves the way for GM, the biggest U.S. automaker, to gain market share. The Detroit-based automaker is relying on sales in developing nations including China, Brazil and India for growth in the future, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson said Sept. 21.

GM, which makes Buick and Chevrolet-branded sedans with Chinese partner SAIC Motor Co., sells more cars in China than in its home market. Sales in the nation has topped 2 million vehicles in 2011, the carmaker said on Oct. 17.

Growth in the global auto market will probably accelerate next year, rising 6.5 percent in 2012 after expanding 3.5 percent this year, according to estimates at Moody’s Investors Service.

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