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An Auto Industry Insider’s View…From A Woman’s Perspective

Archive for the ‘Your Money and Your Car’ Category

Vicious Circle of Stolen Parts

Posted by carsdiva on November 15, 2010

A business model that revolves around theft? Not that unfamiliar when you look at the black markets that exist, albeit we’re specifically talking automotive here.  Police investigations have reported an increase of stolen in-dash, GPS navigation systems, especially over the last few months.  (And in case you didn’t know, GPS stands for Global Positioning Systems.)  Target vehicles include newer Cadillacs, Jeeps and Chrysler 300s, and the primary crime scenes- Michigan and Florida.

Re-purchased parts

In one particular situation [in Michigan] where a man’s in-dash navigation system was stolen, he ended up getting it back and re-installed, AFTER his insurance company paid the repair bill from the dealership.  You’re probably wondering what is she talking about???  Well, let me explain. What happened was the unit was stolen, after which the individual reported the incident to his insurance company.  The insurance company told him to go to his dealership and get the replacement.  Meanwhile, the thief got $200-$300 from the fence, who then sold it to an auto parts store for around $1,000.  The dealer then purchased the unit for $1,300 from the store and charged their customer, (in this case, the insurance company,) $1,875 + labor costs.

Total cost of the repair:  $4,700, including the $1,875 for the actual navigation unit.  When the man got his vehicle back and his CD ejected out of the stereo, he verified via the serial number that the unit was in fact, the original.

And the cycle of thievery…

Although it is ironic that this guy got the exact same unit back, the scenario as a whole is typical of what’s been happening.  The sequence is as follows:  Parts are stolen and the thieves make money; then the fences sell them online or to auto parts stores and also make money; dealerships purchase parts from the auto parts stores at a mark-up, and then the insurance is footed with a rather high bill to cover the cost of the unit and labor.  At the end of the day, the insurance pays out an exorbitant amount of unnecessary claims, which causes our rates to go up.  Between claims and repair costs, it’s estimated that somewhere over $3M has been paid out due to these thefts.

So as you can see, it’s all about simple economics here– the more parts stolen, the higher the demand for replacements…  and the vicious cycle continues.

You’ve got to admit, it is a pretty clever system that they’ve concocted.  That being said, the FBI has also gotten involved since many of the parts are being transported over state lines.  Between FL and MI, over 1,500 stolen units have already been recovered.

Now I don’t know about you, but I sure as hec don’t need to spend any more money on car insurance!  I feel enough ‘theft’ from my pocket that contributes to insurance companies…

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Posted in Car News & Trends, Your Money and Your Car | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Where & How to Sell Your Ride

Posted by carsdiva on July 11, 2008

Looking to sell your car? Whether you arent satisfied with the trade-in value at the dealership, or you need the cash before you can shop for a new ride, it can be a long and frustrating process. To alleviate some of the stress, I thought Id give you some tips on how and where to get started!

Things to Consider, Research & Do First

One of the first things to consider is the time of year/season that could affect the sale of your vehicle. For example- you may have a sporty convertible in excellent condition, but the chances of it selling for a competitive price during the snowy winter months in the Midwest are pretty slim. (Naturally, use your common sense!)

Check out Edmund's True Market Value pricing.

The next step is to decide on a selling price for your vehicle. Survey online and newspaper classified ads for the same or similar vehicles, making sure to note the mileage, trim level and condition of the vehicle. You can also check other internet sites like, Autotrader.com and Cars.com to see what your car is selling for in your area, and how many are in the market. The more like-vehicles listed, the more competitive you’ll have to be with your pricing. I’d also recommend checking out Edmund’s True Market Value pricing system. The system adjusts depending on key factors such as color, mileage, and specs to give you fair value for the vehicle. And keep in mind that if you’re contemplating a fair number, you can always lower the price at a later date, so be sure that you’re comfortable with what you choose.

Remember the importance of "first impressions," so get to work and clean it out!

Remember the importance of "first impressions!"

Remember the importance of “first impressions.” If someone doesn’t like what they see right off the bat, well you can almost guarantee that they’re not going to take a second glance. That being said, take the time to wash the outside, clean out the inside, and if needed, detail your vehicle. If it needs a few low-cost repairs or maintenance like fixing a dent or two, getting an oil change, or buffing out a scratch, then consider doing it yourself. Spending a few extra dollars may save you the headache, and shorten the sales process. Another good idea would be to get a CarFax or Experian’s AutoCheck vehicle history report, to show potential buyers that odometer reading is correct and justify the condition of the vehicle.

How & Where to Advertise… from online & traditional newspaper classifieds to putting up a sign in your car

So now where do you advertise? Nowadays there are so many options out there- from the traditional newspaper classifieds, to online listings, to just sticking a “for sale” sign in your car window. If you don’t mind cruising around with a sign in the window, then start there. It’s cost-effective, takes virtually no time to do, and you could potentially sell the car locally, especially if you maintain a shorter radius on your daily commute.

Over 80% of the population uses the internet at some point during the car buying process, whether it’s research on a particular make/model, pricing information, or to search out a particular new or used vehicle. By utilizing online classifieds, you can reach a wider audience than you can by simply relying on your local newspaper listings or the sign-in-the-window method. Some of the top online vehicle classifieds include AutoTrader.com and Cars.com, and most of your local newspapers use one of these two services within their vehicle classifieds section. Craisglist.org is also becoming more frequently used, typically for local shoppers. You can also place a traditional ad in the local paper, but remember that most people refer to the internet, even when they’re checking out the local paper.

The key to online ads is creative writing (which I’ll go into more detail about in my next blog post.) Think of ways to make your ad stand out from the rest, but make sure to include key facts like the mileage, price, color, condition, year, make, model and trim level. It’s also good when noting the price, to describe it as the “asking price” or give a price, followed by “OBO” (or best offer.) This informs people that you’re willing to negotiate which tends to attract more potential buyers.

Be prepared to answer your phone if someone calls to inquire about your vehicle for sale.

Keep in mind that people are busy and most often would rather speak to someone right off the bat to determine if the vehicle is worth looking at. For those who don’t want to list your phone number, you can include your email, but chances are you’ll get a greater response from potential buyers if they can call you. And if you do list your number, be prepared to answer your phone!

And finally…don’t forget to spread the word! Let your friends, co-workers, and family know that you’re selling your vehicle. People always prefer to buy from someone they know, so a personal referral is a much more promising potential sale.

Something New: A Speedy & Effortless Alternative

Don’t have the time to go through all the steps, or want to avoid the phone calls and people coming to see the vehicle? Do you just want to sell the car fast and be done with it? From time to time here at CarsDiva, we check out new automotive industry services for consumers and we think we found an interesting alternative for private sellers. Check out Copart Direct. They take care of the whole process for you, from start to finish!

A speedy and effortless alternative

At Copart Direct, you call them up and work with their representative to determine a fair value and the number to expect for your vehicle. You then drop off your car for sale at one of their nationwide facilities where they inspect and photograph the car. Copart Direct uses an online technology process where your car is exposed to over 100,000 registered buyers worldwide (typically wholesalers and dealers.) After the online virtual auction, the representative will contact you to give you the low-down on the number of bids, where they came from, and the amount of the highest bid. You then decide if you want to accept the bid, and after you do, you pick up your check! That’s it- easy and hassle-free. They take care of all the paperwork, transport, etc… One thing to keep in mind is that it is an online auction, so you may take a bit of a hit on the price. However, if you want to avoid the sales process and save time, then it’s a great alternative to selling the vehicle on your own.

Got more questions? I’ve got answers! Feel free to drop me a line at CarsDiva.com and I’d be more than happy to help you out in any way I can!

Up Next

…Tips for creative online ads and finalizing the sales process!

Posted in Car Shopping & the Internet, Maintain your Ride, Selling Your Car, Uncategorized, Your Money and Your Car | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Rental Cars: Are they worth purchasing???

Posted by carsdiva on April 17, 2008

Should you buy a rental car???  Of course, the popular answer (or perhaps unanimous), would be an immediate “no.”  They have the reputation of being driven to the ground, beaten up, abused, and banged around, and overall, treated poorly.  However, I was reading an article on MSN Autos, (entitled nonetheless, Should You Buy a Rental Car), and coupled with my own experience in the car biz, this is a stereotypical misconception for many of these vehicles. (I’m not being naïve here, and yes, I have rented cars many times in the past.) 

Maintained and Less $$$$ 

Rental cars go through regular servicing and maintenance updates and typically go through a rigorous inspection from a third-party inspection company before being put up for sale.  After all, (most) rental car companies don’t want to want to deal with the hassle of an unhappy customer, or be given a bad rep in the auto industry.  They also include the remaining balance of the manufacturer’s warranty, usually have low miles, and are most often sold for thousands of dollars less than their counterparts at a dealership.  This is not because the vehicles aren’t “as good,” but if the rental car companies sell them directly to the consumers, the extra few thousand dollars are saved, which car dealers have to tack on to cover their overhead.  Also, vehicles classified as “rental cars” are often valued less than other used cars. 

Where Do I Buy a Rental Car? 

Should you buy a rental car?More and more national car rental licensees and independents are selling their off-rental vehicles direct to the public, due to the decrease in “guaranteed buy back” from the manufacturers.  (Manufacturers once upon a time used to buy back most, if not all, of the vehicles they provided to the rental car companies.)  Enterprise and Thrifty have always offered selected vehicles to the public, but now many others are doing so as well.  My good friends at Arelco (National Car Rental) in Indianapolis, Fox Car Rental in Los Angeles, Ace Rent a Car in Chicago and Midway Car Rental in Los Angeles are selling some of their cars retail, just to name a few….  And if you think buying a rental car means you’ll be stuck with a run-of-the-mill Ford Taurus, or Chevy Impala, you’re wrong.  There are many rental car companies that offer a wide-range of vehicles (think Luxury category), including BMW’s, Mercedes, and yes, even Ferraris! 

You heard it first 

You can hear about some of the positive experiences first-hand, from individuals who have purchased rental cars.  Kristin Reeves, who purchased a 2007 Ford Explorer with only 5,000 miles, said that it’s “fantastic,” and confidently states “I haven’t had any problems whatsoever.” One of the producers for Car and Driver Radio, Michael Jones, bought a 2004 Cadillac Deville and paid $22,500 for it.  He claims that at a nearby dealership the same car was selling for $31,000.  

Many Rental Car Companies offer a wide variety of vehicles.

Smart Shopping 

However, as with buying any used car, here are some precautionary tips to take before making your purchase:

  1. 1.  Obtain a vehicle history report through CarFax
  2. 2.  Take the vehicle to a trusted mechanic, and have them     thoroughly inspect the car, including the underbody
  3. 3.   If possible, take the car for a test drive first

So I leave it to you to decide if you should consider purchasing a rental car.  You have the facts- now you decide what to do.  But of course, with any (used) vehicle purchase, I highly recommend you follow the advice above—you’ll drive away with a lot more confidence!

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Tips to Save Gas…and save your extra dollars!!!

Posted by carsdiva on April 2, 2008

I came across some very useful advice today on theDailyGreen.com and thought I’d share with all of you. Given the ridiculous gas prices, everyone’s looking for a way to save a couple of cents, so I found this rather fitting. According to the Consumer Federation of America, if you follow these guidelines, you’ll save at least 20% on fuel costs. Along with each tip, I’ve included the amount you’re estimated to save according the CFA’s studies:

CarsDiva shares tips to save on fuel costs. 1. Keep it CLEAN

Did you know that you can increase your gas mileage 10% if you have a clean air filter? AND almost 25% of all cars need a new one!

Savings: $0.28 a gallon

2. Straighten out

You all know that if your tires are poorly aligned, they’ll wear out faster (especially on rear-wheel drive cars). However, they also force your engine to work harder, using up more gas.

Savings: $0.28 a gallon

3. Tune Up your engine

Don’t ignore the “Check your engine” light. One- you’ll most likely save on gas, and two- you could prevent more costly damages.

Savings: $0.11 a gallon

4. Keep them filled

Over 25% of vehicles have somewhat deflated tires, which also results in fuel deficiency.  Soo…pump ‘em up!

CarsDiva says, keep your tires filled...Savings: $0.08 a gallon.  

5. Screw it or replace it

If your gas cap is loose, broken, or missing, two things can result: 1- your gas mileage can decrease, and 2- for those of you “green” fanatics, you could be harming the environment.

Savings: $0.02 a gallon

6. Gimme a break

Slow down….did you know you can decrease increase fuel efficiency 7% if for every 5mph you slow down on the highway? (I’m gonna be perfectly honest…this is a tough one for me!)

Savings:  $0.19 a gallon, (reducing speed from 70 mph to 65 mph)

Gimme a break...(CarsDiva)

7. Smooth ridin’

Don’t slam on the breaks or floor the gas pedal (if you don’t have to). You could save up to 33% of your gas!

Savings: $0.48 a gallon.

8. Get off it

One of my biggest pet peeves…. Don’t ride with your foot on the break! Not only do you wear out your breaks, but this is the number #1 way to waste your gas.

Savings: $0.96 per gallon

9. Lose some weight

Stick to your New Year’s resolution and lose those extra pounds! (just kidding) But seriously, get rid of the extra poundage in your car and yes, you’ll increase your fuel efficiency by 1-2% for every 100lbs you drop.

Savings: $0.04 a gallon, (based on 100lbs removed)

10. Stop putzing

Keeping your car running idle causes pollution and wastes gas. (So in other words, you really don’t need to warm up your car for an hour if it’s cold out…just throw on an extra jacket and you’ll save $$$)

Savings: $0.01 a gallon, (for every 2 min you keep it running idle)

Posted in Going Green, Maintain your Ride, Road Trips, Your Money and Your Car | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Five Star Hotels, Spas and Car Dealerships

Posted by carsdiva on January 14, 2008

Florida Lexus

Car shopping takes on a whole new meaning as luxury car dealerships are implementing multi-million dollar makeovers.  A recent Wall Street Journal article by Neal Boudette, “Luxury-Car Sellers Put on the Ritz,” caught my eye:   one, because I like luxury cars, and two, because I love to be pampered. (Really now, who doesn’t?)  And the reason for these makeovers?  Well, “the goal is to create the look and feel of five-star hotels for customers, increase the dealerships’ car allocations and even make it less likely that rival dealerships will pop up nearby.”  Large retail chains like AutoNation Inc., Wilson Automotive Group, Fletcher Jones Management Group, and Herb Chambers Companies are all jumping the gun to actualize these lavish changes in their dealerships.    

Dealership GolfLattes, Golf and the Spa…

Who would’ve thought you could walk into a dealership to get your car serviced and get a “day at the spa” all at the same time?  I love the idea as much as I hate walking into a dealership service department (which is the raison d’être, I think).  Luxury dealerships, like Lexus, are remodeling their venues with amenities like European coffee bars and cafes (think Starbucks), vibrating massage chairs, test tracks, putting greens, flat-panel TV’s, and offering free services like shoeshines, manicures, and shuttles to the airport.  The interior decor has transitioned to an upscale environment, creating a luxurious “5-star” ambience to include polished stone bathroom counters, fireplaces, and skylights over the showroom floor.    

Dealership Interior 

Why They Do It – Part 1:  Standing out from the Crowd

The reason for this increase in upscale-style dealerships is a result of several factors.  First off,  it reflects the growing population of the wealthy, and what they require in “raising the bar” for luxury service.  And of course, as more car dealerships are stepping up in the ranks, competition increases, making those super-luxury dealerships that were once considered the few and rare, now a norm.  As, Vince Liuzzi, general manager of Herb Chambers Lexus says that “you’ve got to do a lot more to wow people now.”  Once upon a time Lexus was the only brand that offered loaner cars to their customers who brought their vehicles in for service.  However, now this has come become expected at most dealerships, and an alternate differentiating point becomes necessary.          

Why they Do It – Part II:  To Get More Allocation, to Make More Money, Today…

Don’t be fooled guys, there is a more exigent, immediate reason why these dealers spend so much to give you so much.  It turns out that it’s not only good for customer relations and ambiance, but the manufacturers specifically incentivize this type of spend by giving those dealers who build these mini palaces more allocations for in-demand, hard to get product.  Every extra car a dealer can get each month in a luxury brand that the public is craving translates into extra, immediate profit, enough to make the amortization payment on lots of creature comfort amenities with some bucks to spare.  As is mentioned in the article, “For dealers that sell the three top luxury brands — Lexus, BMW and Mercedes — building palace-like showrooms is also just about the only way to grow. The three companies that make those cars keep supplies of the vehicles tight. Many dealers could sell more cars, but they can’t get additional vehicles from the manufacturers.”…and, “The big three luxury brands also limit the number of dealerships. And building a bigger facility means Lexus won’t put another store in the area.”

If you do the math on the recent AutoNation’s Palm Beach Lexus store’s $35 million dollar upgrade, it’s pointed out in the article that the investment made sense (and cents) from day one.  Lexus has a deal that they will allocate more cars to dealers who upgrade facilities.  For the $35 million investment, the Lexus store in Palm Beach can order 2,000 more cars on top of its normal allocation over the next 18 months or so.  Last year the store sold 2,710 new cars, so by quick CarsDiva math they increased their likely sell through by roughly 1/3 or an additional potential sales of another 111 a month, on top of their 225 or so monthly sales.  Who knows exactly what is made per sale, but, chances are with that kind of growth in the “top line” number the upgrades were a wise financial expenditure – and they protect their exclusive market sales area in the process, in their demographic of growing population and affluence.  Not a bad deal at all.. 

So It’s All Fair, but Don’t Be Confused As To Who Is Really Paying for All of This Pampering…

As an educated consumer though, the facts above dictate that I am really paying for these upgrades in preserved profit margins for the dealer though, right?  They get a third more cars instead of a competing franchise in their territory, and I was always taught that competition fosters price competitiveness.   So without it,  there is naturally a lot less discounting and the preservation of the profit margin of the dealer with no competition, right?  Not to mention the fact that, as the only local Lexus dealer in a large market territory, the service pricing, that is, what’s not covered under warranty, can probably include a very hefty price margin as well.  That’s a basic law of supply and demand.  That’s probably fair though, as a wealthy consumer (hypothetically speaking), I’m demanding this type of catering (remember I’m the one that expects the “bar raised”), so I should pay for it.

It’s clear lots of consumers are loving it as Barry Speak, a 2005 Lexus LS 4300 owner and customer of Palm Beach Lexus is quoted in the article,  “My wife and I are going to be fighting over who gets to take the car in now.”   

And ladies, well I don’t know about you, but I would love to  go car shopping, get my nails done, AND drink my latte all at the same time.  It would certainly take the “trauma” out car buying–  at least until it came down to the price proposal…                                     

 What do you think???

  Ferrari

Posted in The Real Deal...at the dealership, Your Money and Your Car | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

“The Dealership Treatment” – Women Vs. Men

Posted by carsdiva on November 13, 2007

girl-and-keys.jpggirl-and-keys.jpg

 

car_shopping-cart.jpg

 

 

Looking at American society today, women are definitely in the driver’s seat, purchasing over half the cars sold and influencing the purchase of over 80%.  With such a critical impact on automotive decision making, you’re probably wondering then, why is this industry so behind in placing more focus on them and their needs?  Well, perhaps it’s because men still hold the majority of high-ranking positions in the automotive world.  Although women are (very slowly) breaking through the barriers, it’s still controlled by men! little-kid.jpg

 

Women need to be satisfied

According to surveys conducted by CARMAX and Capital One Auto Finance, women continue to be unsatisfied with their car buying experience.  Studies continue to illustrate that women are increasingly purchasing more and more vehicles, yet their visit to the dealership has not improved.  In fact, it’s often referred to as “traumatic.”

Men drive the sales

Men don’t only dominate the high-ranking positions in the auto industry, they drive the sales.  In fact, women only make up about 8% of car salespeople.  Women are just viewed upon as being less aggressive.  Although both men and women give the car buying experience a negative connotation, women often take men along with them because they anticipate being treated badly.  I’m sure you’ve all been in that spot before- whether you were the man accompanying your wife or girlfriend, or the woman pleading your father or brother to come with you. 

The disparity often lies in the lines of communication between the salesman and the buyer.  Women like to take their time and “shop around”, and they’re not afraid to let the salesguy know that they’re “just shopping.”  Redflag!  Two things could happen at this point.  The salesperson ignores the lady and moves on to help the next GUY that just walked in.  Women take this as discrimination; they get frustrated and pissed off when they realize the person that was supposed to be helping them disappeared and they can’t get their questions answered.  (I don’t blame you- that’s why I’m here to help with that.)  OR, the salesguy, with all his tactics, will somehow find a way to con the shopper into buying a car she really didn’t intend on purchasing that day.  And again, the women leaves feeling aggravated, manipulated or pissed off that she allowed herself to be put in that position.  You’re supposed to be thrilled, feel excited– like a little kid getting a new toy when you buy a new car, right????

 

little-kid.jpg 

 

Interestingly enough a study completed by Princeton University and Edmunds.com concluded the following:

• 2.5 times more women than men said they feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating.
• Men initiate negotiations about four times more often than women.
• When asked to pick metaphors for negotiations, men picked “winning a ballgame” and a “wrestling match,” while women picked “going to the dentist.”
• Women will pay as much as $1,353 to avoid negotiating the price of a car.
• Women are more pessimistic about the rewards available, and so come away with less when they do negotiate-on average, 30 percent less than men.
• 20 percent of women (22 million people) say they never negotiate at all, even though they recognize negotiation as appropriate and even necessary.
• Approximately 80 percent of women feel pressure when browsing for cars in showrooms — and yet women play a critical role in nearly 60 percent of new   vehicle purchases, according to Edmunds.

Take control! …or say goodbye

I don’t know if I’d compare negotiating for my next car with going to the dentist (at least not if you have as many cavities as I do), but well, you can see the point being made.  The important thing to remember for both men and women is that you are in control of the situation– don’t allow yourself to lose that confidence.  You can always walk out if you’re not getting the treatment that you deserve by the wise-guy in plaid pants, (there are a ton of car dealers out there.)  Now on that token, in order to remain in control, you need to walk into the dealership prepared!  Don’t expect to come out ahead or strike a great deal if you don’t know what you’re talking about.  A recent survey showed that women are more likely than men to visit a dealership without doing any prior research.

Preparation before Purchase

Research and lingo is key- I mean come on ladies, you wouldn’t go browsing for your next Louis Vuitton bag without doing your research beforehand, would you?  You know how the sales rep will look at and/or treat you if you don’t know what you’re talking about.  I was just reading an article from the Wall Street Journal about shopping in a luxury district (Taking an Emotional Audit of Rodeo Drive by Christina Binkley), and it reminded me of car shopping, as the emotions that accompanied the shoppers frequently included “delight, shame, disappointment” and “self-indulgence.”  Luxury boutiques often profile their potential customers, and send signals that are unwelcoming, reflecting exclusivity.  Sound familiar?  Well the same applies for the car biz.  Forget about it, you might as well stay home.  You won’t be taken seriously.  Be prepared before stepping out or yes, you’ll fall into the pool of those with the “traumatic” experience.

 armwrestle.jpg

The number one thing to do is to research vehicle prices- not only the price of the car that you’re looking to buy/lease, but if you’ve got a trade-in, know the value of that car!  There are a lot of tools out there, whether you’re relying on a traditional source like newspapers, or you’re surfing the Web.  You can find what you need (and should do so) before you walk into a dealership.  It’s a lot easier to negotiate and remain in control when you can justify your argument.

Another point that consumers often forget (or don’t realize) is that there is a huge range of financing options out there—banks, credit unions, online financial sources.  Do some investigating.  The dealer is not the only one who can provide you with the financial assistance you require, AND he or she may not offer the best rates.  And if you have any specific questions on auto loans, feel free to ask me.  You know I’ll be honest with you…

“Say what???  Show it to me…”

Know your budget, and also know what you’re looking for in a car- from the drive train, to the horsepower, to the 5-disc player.  You’ll be amazed at how much more seriously you’ll be taken if you know some of the car “lingo.”  And finally, don’t be afraid to be demanding!   Take your time when you’re looking through the sales contract, and read all the fine print.  If you have questions, ask.   If you need an explanation, demand it.  You’ll appreciate taking these extra steps later on when your monthly payments aren’t sky high, but what you estimated them to be, and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as you cruise off the lot. 

 

 girl-and-keys.jpg

 

Posted in The Real Deal...at the dealership, Your Money and Your Car | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »