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Author Topic:   Bombardier's plans for Johnson & Evinrude
lhg posted 01-11-2002 09:29 PM ET (US)   Profile for lhg  
I just came across an interesting article on this subject, and thought that previously loyal OMC fans, and would be buyers, would be interested in what is happening here. See how you see yourself, in your Whaler, in this amusing "Madison Avenue" picture.

Everything below, IN QUOTES, is reproduced from a new article published in SOUNDINGS TRADE ONLY, Jan 2002 edition, from an article entitled "Johnson, Evinrude revved up for show season", by Jim Flannery, Staff Writer.
I have picked passages of interest. This is not the whole article.

"Bombardier intends to undertake an 'aggressive' marketing campaign this Spring that will clearly separate and distinguish Johnson from Evinrude, said marketing director Keith Yunger. 'We'll be pulling them apart' he said. 'They are not going to be known as Johnrude anymore'."

"Johnson will keep offering standard carbureted 2-strokes and a new line of 4-strokes to compete in the growing 4-stroke market, Unger said." (lhg note - according to new reports, these are being supplied by Suzuki, as done previously)

"Johnson and Evinrude will be marketed to different kinds of customers."

"Johnson will come across as 'not a lot of flash but substance; salt of the earth; big on family; keeping traditions alive; tough, dependable, traditional', Yunger said."

"Much of the advertising will be geared to the angler market. It's slogans:'Over 80 years of seasoning, with plenty of salt.'
Also 'Johnson and fishing. The words are pretty much synomous.'" (lhg note - recalling OMC/Boston Whaler here?)

"The Evinrude line will consist of 2-strokes with the new, clean, fuel efficient Ficht Ram injection system that OMC introduced to the outboard market."

" 'Evinrude will be marketed to a more technology-saavy customer,' Yunger said: 'High energy; wants the best; up on trends and new technology; doesn't compromise; loves adventure; leaves little to chance; innovative but uncompromising - the technology has to work.' "

"Evinrude advertising stresses 'leaner, meaner, greener.' One slogan, 'Our brother is a jet, Our sister is a bullet train. They try hard to keep up,' refers to Bombardier's involvment in the aerospace and transportation industries."

"Advertising for both lines will stress durability, quality and reliability - qualities Lambert says are possible NOW because Bombardier has invested tens of millions buying and equipping a new plant at Sturtevant (WI), set up demanding quality control systems there and fixed its outsourcing problems." (lhg note - I wonder what this says about previous 2001 and earlier engines?)

And for those interested in what's going on with Ficht, the following is of great interest. Here, also, reading between the lines, (what he isn't saying) is of interest regarding OMC built engines prior to Bombardier taking over!

continuing with the article.....

"Millions in parts dumped" (headline)

"Lambert said Ficht technology is sound, and the problems OMC had with carbon build-up in the early models is no longer a problem. The problem has been parts and hardware. They weren't being manufactured to stipulated tolerances, and too many engine components were being assembled at outsource facilities where defunct OMC had no operational control"

" 'The technology has worked for two years,' Lambert said. 'We didn't do anything on Ficht for the last 10 months.... The surrounding hardware had the issues.'"

"Lambert says 95 to 97 percent of assembly is now done in Sturtevant (where the 2002 models are being made), which has been fitted with new equipment capable of producing and assembling components to far tighter tolerances. He said millions of dollars in inventoried parts (from the prior OMC) have been dumped because they didn't meet strict tolerances. Outsource facilities are being held to these strict tolerances, and in one case Bombardier has invested $10 million in and outsource plant to bring its manufacturing equipment and processes up to par. He said Bombardier also has adopted testing that tries to push the engine to fail, and over the summer it redesigned parts that analysis showed were causing breakdowns. Changes in the crankshaft, engine management module, oil system, connecting rods, starter motor, pistons, tilt and trim, gear case, and other components should improve reliability and durability.' Lambert said." (lhg note - Yikes, what does this mean about 2001 and earlier OMC engines?)

" 'We're paying attention to detail,' said cheif engineer George Broughton. Broughton said his testing suggests the interval between engine failures is five times longer than it used to be. 'That means if you took your (OMC) engine into the dealer once a year to get it fixed, now it's once every five years.' (lhg note - are they trying to sell their new stuff at the direct expense of the 2001 and previous OMC models, and their owners? sounds like it)

" Lambert says Bombardier will continue to pursue the two threads of clean technology - Ficht and 4-stroke, Evinrude and Johnson - as long as the market demands both. 'It's what the consumer wants,' he said."

"Broughton said Bombardier has adopted Ficht not as an 'interim technology' but a long term solution to emissions. He said the technology already satisfies the clean air standards for 2007, and can be tweaked to meet the next level of clean air standards after that."

" 'I know how to do it,' he says, and it's patented.' " (end of article)

So Evinrude will be Ficht, and Johnson, after 2005, will be 4-stroke. My guess is that by then they will have their own models, and won't be dependent on Suzuki.

What's interesting is that the Johnson 4-strokes will be marketed to the slugs, the boring people, and the Evinrude Fichts to the high-tech hot "in" crowd. Are the 4-strokes that boring, and less high-tech than the Fichts? That's not what Yam, Honda and Merc are counting on with their big 225/250 4-strokes! They think they ARE the high tech.

Tom W Clark posted 01-11-2002 11:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     

You calling me a boring slug? I resemble that!

For eleven months I have listened to your relentless and tireless OMC bashing. I have mostly stayed out of the brand arguments apart from telling what good performance I've gotten out of my Johnsons over the years. But now I must say that some points you've made are good, and others I think, less so.

First of all let me say I have been a loyal fan of OMC products since childhood. They have been superb in my opinion and you couldn't pay me to own a Mercury for a variety of good reasons. OK, same old pissing contest right? (I actually think the FORUM members are a nice balance of brand loyalists)

Now having said that, I will be the first to point out that the OMC of old got everything they deserved. But while the Ficht's have been a disaster, OMC did not go down simply because of that. OMC's mistakes go back at least twenty years. OMC was a victim of bad management, bad decisions, not bad designs or engineering.

My uncle, John Carey, (and after his death, his son John Carey Jr.) were the owners of Wright Outboard Inc. here in Seattle, the Johnson distributor for Washington and Alaska from c.1960 to 1993 when OMC yanked all the distributorships and decided to get into that business themselves. (This was one of OMCís bad moves) So growing up I always enjoyed hearing from John about the business from his point of view.

At those twice or thrice a year family gatherings they would tell me about what was in the works for OMC. It was great fun. I remember in the late 1970's when my cousin John Jr. first told me about this new product that was an outboard with its own mounting that bolted onto the outside of the transom. (eventually called the SeaDrive) He said it would be used on bigger boats that at that time had inboards or I/O's. The future was in big outboards he said and they needed to be submersible if they were going to be put on boats as big as 25-30 feet. This drive would have hydraulic steering and all the cables routed through the transom in sealed hoses.

I thought that was ridiculous. Outboards on a huge 30 cabin cruiser? Well OMC had the right idea, just the wrong delivery. Today bracket mounted outboards are common. A pair of 225's on the back of your 27'? No problem.

Itís been a long time since I bought a new large outboard. 1990 to be precise when I bought my Johnson 150 for the Outrage, a nearly flawless motor. So I am not ďupĒ on all the latest and greatest apart from what I hear here and elsewhere. But my preferences were formed long ago in youth when being on the water meant everything to me during summer vacation.

At the beach some of us had OMCís and others had Mercuryís. The Mercs were generally agreed to be faster at the top end but when we went water skiing guess what we used. The boat with the Johnson or Evinrude. The neighbor with the 1972 13-Sourpuss had a fast Mercury 50 on it. It was great fun to zoom around in when it ran. Unfortunately that was not to often. The little 35 hp two banger Johnson on my 13-Sport however, never missed a beat. Indeed it was this boat that I learned to water ski behind.

The questions you need to ask yourself when you are considering speed is: What is speed? How often do I run my boat flat out? How often do I accelerate onto a plane? The latter, very rarely in most cases. The former, ever time I go out. Rated horsepower for rated horsepower which motor, Johnson or Mercury, will pop you up the fastest? Johnson every time. Top speed: 50 mph or 52 mph, who cares?

I also have a low tolerance for breakdowns and spending money on mechanics. When do my Johnsonís go in for service? When I can no longer remember when the last time was. Never because something broke. (OK, almost never) There's good reason why Johnson was the best selling outboard not for years but for decades.

Anyway, back to your comments above. I forget what his name was, but the guy running OMC in the late 1990ís was trying to cut costs like crazy and the whole outsourcing idea was a disaster. There was nothing wrong with the motor designs, just an initiative to cut costs. Bad move. I hope Bombardier pitches all those parts. The stuff made in Waukegan was great. I suspect the stuff from Sturtevant will be also. It was also this clown who decided the Johnsons should be painted a different color than white. Nice move.

OMC was a relatively small company. Bombardier is HUGE. They have deep pockets. They better have. Theyíre going to need the money to develop a four stroke outboard. OMC of old did not make an investment into four stroke technology when everyone else was. Buying Suzukiís and putting their own gearcase on them is all fine and good, but when you can buy the Suzuki labeled motor for $700 to $1000 less your going to lose business. Another bad move.

I am honestly surprised Bombardier went back to Suzuki for four strokes. They should be full speed ahead in terms of trying to develop their own. This would take some years, but still....perhaps they are and are just using the Suzukis to ďget them throughĒ.

Bombardier disassociating themselves from the pre-2001 Fichtís? Of course they are! When something stinks, you step away from it. Note thereís been no complaints about the Johnsonís of that era. Bombardier has stepped in to cover warranties on those Fichtís at any rate. A gracious move they did not have to do, but again they have deep pockets, smarter management and better business sense. than OMC of old.

Johnson and Evinrude will not take center stage right away, but give them five years and weíll see....

Dick posted 01-11-2002 11:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dick  Send Email to Dick     

I wouldn't be surprised if we see a Bombardier made 4 stroke before long. They have the engine technology allready. They have introduced a 4 stroke GTX Sea Doo this year. They have also used their own 4 strokes in other applications for years.


LarrySherman posted 01-12-2002 12:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for LarrySherman  Send Email to LarrySherman     
I read lhg's post as very positive information for Johnson.

Larry's personal asides notwithstanding, it really sounds like Bombardier is putting Johnson in a great possition to succeed with the experienced buyer. From the above, it's Evinrude that seems to have the bigger hill to climb.

I do love my 2-thirsty-5 now that I have it running well. I hope to get years of service from her, on top of the 17 she has already given!

lhg posted 01-12-2002 01:05 AM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
Tom - all of us here know you're certainly not boring! I think it's interesting that Bombardier has decided to market your Johnson brand to people with "not a lot of flash, but substance." We know that you've got substance AND flash! You sound more like a high tech Evinrude guy! Their words, not mine!

As for not liking the OMC engines, that's a personal opinion, from years of observations and product comparisons. Just a different perspecive, like GM vs Ford, and a minority one at that, since until 1995, OMC out sold Mercury in outboards easily. Like you, I've never been towed in over 30 years of boating.

But beginning 15 months ago, I found the corporate conduct of OMC outrageous, to see a US company, who knew their product was bad, lie to, outwardly misrepresent, and cheat their US customer base, including Dealers, the way they did. So call it OMC bashing if you will, but they deserved it. Like Enron, I guess this is the way they do things as total corporate collapse becomes unavoidable, but it was a disgrace to the entire marine business and it's customers, and did the whole industry a lot of damage. I'm just glad I wasn't one of the people who had to eat their share of the $800,000,000 they left uncollectible to creditors. And now, these comments by Bombardier, not me, who now know the internal engineering situation better than any, seems to confirm that there WERE serious manufacturing problems & deficiencies in those last 3 years or so.

PS. If you look back, I also said some of Mercury's activities with this summers' bad run of Optimax's also distressing, as in the Juris situation. Someone would have a hard time selling me either a 3 liter Optimax or a Ficht right now. I'm going to let others be the test pilots for a while. But I have heard that the Optimax's are now OK again, and it sounds like Bombardier may have now "fixed the Ficht".

lhg posted 01-12-2002 01:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
Larry, I agree, it is positive information. And that was my intention in posting it. It sounds like Bombardier has really used their considerable manufacturing expertise to overhaul and improve these products. I would like to see another North American company succeed here. Just don't ask to buy a Sea Doo jet product! Those I hate.

I also agree that Johnson, with the continued popularity of the old, less expensive, 2-strokes, and new popularity of 4-strokes, will probably do the better of the two initially. That seems to be the consensus of what people here would buy, as "loose" engines. With the end of "Johnrude", I also wonder why they're separating the two from a Dealer's perspective. If you're an Evinrude dealer, you have no conventional, popular 2-strokes to sell, and no 4-strokes to sell, except in other brands. That makes no sense to me. A Johnson dealer has no DFI's to sell, except another brand he may represent. It seems as if they are putting their Dealers in the position of being required to have other brands, just to survive. And I also think some of their Madison Avenue stuff is amusing! Are you a Johnson or an Evinrude ad type?

Tom W Clark posted 01-12-2002 01:33 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     

...I was being facetious. (Thank you Groucho Marx for that classic line.)

As for the OMC vs. Mercury thing, I don't think it's a minority/majority thing at all but rather a well balanced (and well worn) one like Ford/Chevy. I won't argue with you about bashing OMC management but I will still debate the merits of their designs. You all know I love a good argument anyway. (As an aside, I checked out that Merc vs. Yamaha thread at The Hull Truth you referred to earlier. What a bunch of sophomoric drivel that site has.)

Actually one of your most persuasive arguments for despising OMC was your description, some time ago, of the environmental damage they did at Waukegan. Absolutely horrifying. Like I said, they got what they deserved.

I forgot to mention the other big blunder that helped put OMC under: Trying to be like Brunswick.

Brunswick is big. They own quite a few boat lines, among other things. I really think OMC had "boat manufacture envy" when they started buying up all those boat builders in the 1990's, Stupid. They weren't in a good position to manage all that. For decades they built the best damn outboards in the world and then they think they're going to be a mini-Brunswick marine conglomerate.

Remember the Johnson and Evinrude trihulls from the 1960's? Well apparently OMC management didn't. They didn't do well building boats in the 60's and they didn't do well building boats in the 90's. If you want to get ahead, you need to learn from your mistakes. Hopefully Bombardier is smarter.

Dick, yes I suspect you are correct about the four strokes. Bombardier has a lot of experience with those despicable Sea/Ski-Doo's as well as the Rotax engines and other aviation products. They are engineering heavy, so we'll see.

Tom W Clark posted 01-12-2002 01:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
As soon as OMC split the Johnson and Evinrude lines apart in the late 1990's, every Johnson dealer also became an Evinrude dealer and vice versa so you can go to any OMC dealer and get the technology you want.
lhg posted 01-12-2002 02:04 AM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
Tom, I remember fairly well how both engine companies got into the boat business. Correct me if my memory is failing. Some details may not be correct.

I think that OMC pulled of a huge coup, which started the whole buying binge. I think they got Sea Ray to switch from Mercury/Mercruiser to them, a huge loss for Mercury. This involved both outboard and stern drives. So Brunswick got aggressive, and simply bought out Sea Ray by offering him (C. N. Ray) a price he couldn't refuse, I think $400,000,000. A lot of money for one guy in 1990. Then, of course, they immediately dumped OMC engines. I think there are some older Sea Rays out there with OMC stern drives in them.

Then both companies started buying boat companies, much to grab a company the other guy used as an engine client. The whole thing spiraled out of control, and Yamaha just sat back and did nothing. Then Brunswick nabbed Bayliner during all of this, who had recently taken over the old Chrysler outboards. So now Mercury had Force also, and another huge market for engines. At the very end of this whole feeding frenzy, Brunswick picked up Whaler in 1996 for a song, after Reebock/Meridian had almost run it into the ground. Now it seems that Genmar is in the boat feeding frenzy. We'll see if it works for him. Bombardier also just picked up some bankrupt boat company.

hauptjm posted 01-14-2002 11:16 AM ET (US)     Profile for hauptjm    
Eventually, it all boils down to economies of scale. I just heard a few weeks ago, that Toyota is working on an engine of the world. Plans are to build an engine that can be used in at least 1,000,000 applications, ANNUALLY. That's right, 1 million engines a year. That's a lot of cars , generators, tractors, etc. If they're successful, it would be a huge cost savings platform for manufacture.

Well, the engine guys in the marine industry are no different. If it you do it correctly, buying the end user of your product (the boat itself) certainly goes a long way to attempting to achieve economies of scale.

jimh posted 01-14-2002 01:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Some of the history of how engine builders became vertically integrated with boat builders is contained in .
where2 posted 01-14-2002 05:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
Toyota and an engine that can be used in 1M items anually. LOOKOUT Here comes another replacement for the VW Air-Cooled engine! (yes, I've seen VW engines in cars, boats and industrial applications. If I didn't know better, I'd think there was one on that car NASA left on the moon!)
padrefigure posted 01-17-2002 10:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for padrefigure  Send Email to padrefigure     
Buying customers or suppliers is vertical integration. Your Toyota example is economy of scale through expanding product placement possibilities. Neither strategy is a guarantee of success. (Compare Nucor and Bethlehem steel.)

OMC lost focus. Their customers suffered and their business declined. Suppose Ficht had been successful from the beginning. With Optimax's trouble, would the outboard world look different now? Sometimes companies succeed because of inept competition.

SuburbanBoy posted 01-18-2002 12:42 AM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
As we continue to debate Merc vs. Johnson, Honda is quietly mounting an impressive assault. They (Merc and Johnson) better get off of their collective behinds and crank out some real hardware, not some badge engineered potpourri from the parts bin. Yeah Yeah I know Honda buys lower units from Merc. Newsflash, they also manufacture 6-speed manuals, 5-speed autos and CVTís too boot. They know how to make a proper gear case and fill it with hi-tech hardware. It is only a matter of time.

If Johnson gets the 4-strokes, then they will soon be cowl covers for a Rotax. This gives them a fighting chance. But Merc is apparently struggling on their own. Additionally, there is a major diversion, their OptiMax nightmare. Every engineering hour spent on that dead-end is wasted. They will end up a footnote on a timeline. At least they wonít be lonely, as the Ficht will be right next to them.

I believe these mega 2-smokes are marketing driven. Merc and Johnsonís engineers know they are dogs. I will bet they have been talking about 4-strokes for at least ten years. I hope it wonít be too little too late, as I too have romantic childhood memories of both Merc and Johnson.


Dick posted 01-18-2002 10:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for Dick  Send Email to Dick     
I talked to the Merc factory rep at the boat show yesterday. He confirmed that they are testing a V-6 4 stroke in Florida. Couldn't get any other information though.
hauptjm posted 01-18-2002 12:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for hauptjm    

I agree it's vertical integration, but they are using it to achieve E of S and virtually nothing guarantees success. Nonetheless, I agree that ineptitude of competition has created market share for some companies just because they were "less inept". As I said recently, I love the fact that we are having this discussion. For a while there, I was worried J & E would just disappear.

jbtaz posted 01-18-2002 12:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for jbtaz  Send Email to jbtaz     
I still think J & E are never going to be a major competitor like we once knew them to be. Too much damage has been done with their reputations as well as the stong hold Mercury and Yamaha have on new transoms..
lhg posted 01-18-2002 05:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
Lets talk DFI clean 2 stroke technology for a minute. I personally am not yet a buyer of it yet, but it has it's merits.
I don't think the Mercury Optimax technology is such a nightmare at all, and I'll bet a lot of Boston Whaler buyers don't think so either. The 135 & 150 models have been excellent by all reports. The Honda 130 is no match at all for the 135 Optimax, in ANY category that matters, weight, availability of service, ecomomy and power. The 3 liter 225's had some problems last summer, but evidently those are corrected and the 2002's are quite trouble free.

The Fichts we all know were a problem, but the 2001's supposedly were better, and Bombardier thinks their's will be excellent.
So let's give them a chance and see how they do, before running them into the ground ahead of time.

And I don't see any indication that Yamaha is writing off their HPDI's either. They supposedly have been quite good, and a lot of people like them.

So what is the big deal about these engines? Maybe the technology is interim, maybe not, but it had to happen. There are thousands of boats out there that NEED engines like this (lighter weight, high horsepower), and for which they are doing quite well, thank you. Between 115 HP and 225 HP, there is no effective four stroke yet. The Honda 130, a slow seller, is badly overweight and underpowered, the 200 Yamaha weighs the same 590# as the 225, too much for a 200HP outboard. So these DFI's are solving a problem for boat builders and buyers alike
that need these sizes.

I think Honda needs to get moving, and get some modern EFI technology into it's 4-strokes, to catch up with Mercury, particularly (with 30,40,50,60 & 115 EFI's), and also Suzuki and Yamaha! Or they'll never have more than 5% of the market.

SuburbanBoy posted 01-19-2002 03:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
I clipped the following from the, a spin-off from the highly regarded "Practical Sailor" magazine.

"When you think four-stroke, you think Honda, right? Well, Suzuki is trying to change that. It's a tough task, though, considering Honda's reputation for building bulletproof engines. Can Suzuki produce outboards that are just as dependable and problem-free? This long-term test of two 90-hp Suzukis should help answer that question."

Suffice to say they had some mechanical problems with their dual Suzies... It also seems that at least according to one reputable source, Honda is the 4-stroke reliability benchmark.

To address the Honda 225 portly figure, consider the following...
Honda 225 4-stroke (complete with the following sub-systems fully integrated TOGETHER, cam timing and lift varation, variable length intake runners, 3-Dimensional mapped spark management, and individually addressable fuel injectors (clearly the most sophisticated system ever supplied for an outboard) tips the scales at 586 pounds (lbs).
Mercury Optimax 225 (and 200 as well), 516 pounds (lbs).

The very overstated portlyness is only 12%.

If the Optimax had any technical or environmental merit it would be under the hood of a four wheeled vehicle. It is a technical curiosity.

Merc had better be testing a V-6, hopefully a Honda so they can get a handle on their competition. They might just follow the lead of a famous Italian carmaker, Ferrari. When after years of finishing behind a Honda powered car in Formula One, they got serious. They hired away Honda's chief F1 engine designer. Within four years they were in the hunt for a world championship. If you can't beat em, buy em...


SuburbanBoy posted 01-19-2002 03:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
I should also add that my personal pick of the litter would be the Merc carbed 200 at 416 pounds (lbs). Weighs Less than all the others, including Johnson, and a narrow angle 3 litre V-6 to boot. Cheapest as well (my favorite parameter).


sorcerer posted 01-19-2002 04:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for sorcerer    
What are you going to put your 200 hp Mercury pick of the litter on S_boy?

Sorry I forget what model Whaler you own.

SuburbanBoy posted 01-19-2002 11:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
I said "would be", not will be. My 15' Striper would grossly over powered. I used to own a 200hp Black Max (pre Whaler days). Now to move up I must get a larger tow vehicle. But, I have always had a weakness for a GTX. Yeah, I know butt ugly. I still would like to have it solely for water sports. Love that retro look.


Hank posted 01-20-2002 12:32 AM ET (US)     Profile for Hank  Send Email to Hank     
My local Johnson dealer was invited , along with other Johnson/Evinrude dealers, to Sturtevant for a factory tour. He was very enthusiastic about the emphasis on quality to which Bombardier has committed themselves. Much more stringent in-process as well as pre-shipment testing. They have apparently completed an extensive quality survey of all parts and components in their engines and are undertaking heroic measures to produce a high quality product. They are redesigning production equipment as well as engine parts to achieve their objective. Their objective, as stated to my local dealer was to bring back the former, excellent reputation for quality of these outboard engine brands.

He reports that Bombardier is very high on the Ficht engine design and expects to carry it through to the smaller engines. He mentioned nothing of Madison avenue slogans and marketing targets. Maybe he didn't pay much attention to that aspect of his trip.

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