Episode 958 – Hyundai-Kia Accused of Dumping, Capacity Maxed Out, Presidential Candidates Banned

August 27th, 2012 at 11:30am

Runtime: 7:17

The French government is accusing Hyundai and Kia of dumping cars in the French market. Car plants in the second quarter of the year hit 100 percent capacity utilization in North America. General Motors and Chrysler have banned President Obama and Mitt Romney from visiting their plants until after the election. All that and more, plus John shares his idea of how GM can save Opel.

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily. It’s Monday, the 27th of August, I’m John McElroy and here’s what’s happening in the global car industry today.

As we’ve been reporting here regularly, sales of electric cars are going nowhere. Yet government regulations are forcing automakers to come out with more models. Cadillac’s sales manager Don Butler says he believes people will buy the electric Cadillac known as the ELR when it comes out. But he says they’re not going to buy it to save money on gasoline. Instead, he says they’re going to buy it simply because it’s a drop dead gorgeous car. Look for the ELR to have higher performance than the Chevy Volt, who’s technology it’s based on. And look for a more sumptuous interior. But don’t look for it for another year and a half. Don Butler says that’s how long it’s going to take before it’s in the showrooms.

On Friday we reported that European automakers are upset with a new free trade agreement with South Korea. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that the French government is accusing Hyundai and Kia of dumping cars in the French market. While sales of Peugeot, Citroen and Renault are down anywhere from 14 percent to 20 percent in France this year, Hyundai and Kia’s sales are up 30 percent.

But there’s a good story to tell in North America. WardsAuto reports that car plants in the second quarter of the year hit 100 percent capacity utilization, the highest its been since Wards started tracking it in 2005. A general rule of thumb in the auto industry is that once a plant goes over 80 percent capacity utilization all that extra production drops right to the bottom line. Capacity utilization refers to how many cars a plant is making, compared to how many it was tooled up to make.

Summer is slowly winding down. The days are getting shorter and the temperatures cooler. But one thing that’s still red hot this election season is political rhetoric. President Obama and his Republican Rival Mitt Romney have been going at each other for months. Not wanting to get in the middle of this firefight, General Motors has banned candidates from visiting its plants until after the election. Same goes for Chrysler. The government bailout of GM and Chrysler is still a hot-button issue for many voters and the automakers don’t want to be part of the political debate.

As a frequent viewer of Autoline Daily you already know the benefits of diesels. They offer lots of low-end torque and greater efficiency than gasoline engines. They’re hugely popular in Europe where fuel prices are insane, and they’re starting to gain traction elsewhere around the world. They’re slowly building up steam in North America but they’re really taking off in Australia. According to WardsAuto.com diesel registrations are up nearly 61 percent over the last five years. Right now there are about 2.7 million of them on the country’s roads. That equates to about 16 percent of the total vehicle fleet!

Coming up next, I’ve got an idea of how GM could save Opel, and do it before the end of the year.

Let’s talk about Opel.

If General Motors had deliberately planned to confuse its employees, mystify the investment community and infuriate the German government it could not have succeeded more grandly. When it comes to botching the turn-around at Opel, it’s “Mission Accomplished.”

GM has a long history of treating Opel as an unimportant part of the company. Since 1990 it has churned through nine different CEOs, whose average tenure lasted a little over two years. Some only lasted a matter of months. How can you possibly run a business that way?

Now GM says it’s ready to pour billions into restructuring Opel, at the same time it admits it will lose billions for years to come. What kind of plan is that? What’s needed is drastic action that solves the problem now.

GM should immediately spin Opel off as its own stand-alone company. No more wholly owned subsidiary. Then Opel needs to kick all the Americans off the board—no more ties to Detroit. It must become a fully German company again, free to build the products it wants, selling them where it sees fit.

GM could continue contracting Opel to develop products for another design cycle or two, but in time GM’s design centers in the U.S., Korea, China and Brazil could pick up the slack. Opel would be free to use and license its in-house technology as it sees fit, which would not be a great loss to GM. Cars and powertrains are changing so rapidly as automakers race to meet fuel economy and carbon dioxide regulations, that any “secrets” will be largely obsolete before the decade is out.

With GM out of the picture, the German government would become instantly interested in helping Opel with the financing it needs to restructure. The works council, or union, would prove suddenly cooperative. And the German public would rally around the underdog. Sergio Marchionne would be one of the first to phone in his congratulations, and to begin talks to get the EU to fund an Opel-Fiat-PSA combination/restructuring.

With the spin-off GM could rescind the $3 billion it planned to invest in Opel. And it could take $1 billion in losses off the books. Think of it, a $4 billion turn around, and they could do it all by Christmas.

Anyway, that’s my idea. I’d like to hear yours. Post your comments on our website at Autoline.tv.

And that wraps up today’s report. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog and WardsAuto.com

61 Comments to “Episode 958 – Hyundai-Kia Accused of Dumping, Capacity Maxed Out, Presidential Candidates Banned”

  1. Ron Paris Says:

    Yea! More government bailouts for European automakers. That’s the ticket John!

  2. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Congrats to GM and Chrysler for banning the candidates from their facilities. The “bailouts” are way too politicized already, and having the campaigns at the company sites would only make it worse.

  3. Dan Hudgins Says:

    I guess Fritz Henderson knew a lot more than Big Ed Whitacre or Lieutenant Dan Akerson after all. It was Big Ed and the board who overruled Fritz’s plan to spin off Opel as part of the original restructuring of GM. How many Billions has that already cost GM?

  4. David Sprowl Says:

    Brilliant John, just brilliant. Sink or swim. The real danger of course is a guy like Marchionne convincing the EU to give him a sweet heart deal like he got in the US. Then slowly he will have and empire soon to be the size of the old GM.

  5. W L Simpson Says:

    John, i think you have a fine idea , but it exhibits entirely too much common sense.

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    Will the candidates then visit the transplants or do they want to avoid pissing off the UAW by doing so? Even car making has become so political!

  7. G.A.Branigan Says:

    “MORE DIESELS”….I’ve been chanting that for years.Bosch says more clean diesels are on the way to north America.John,what exactly is coming our way?I know Jeep will once again offer a diesel for the Grand Cherokee,but what about the hugely popular Wranglers?I heard that Ram (1500) might get a V-6 diesel……when? What else is in the pipeline for diesels here in the USA,and will it be in my lifetime? They better hurry,I’m in my 60′s….

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    Guys. except for trucks, Americans just don’t buy diesel cars, more expensive and higher fuel prices, just like in Europe the small hatchback is so damn popular, and here it is not

  9. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Pedro: g’mornin’,yes diesel is more expensive at the pump,but overall operating costs over the ownership life is much cheaper,and mpg’s are awesome.Will pulling steep hills,(in my part of the country)much less downshifting because of the huge torque even small diesels make,less fuel burned etc.Maint is filter and oil changes,topping of of a urea tand if so equipped and that is cheap enough.No ignition systems to go wrong….the list goes on.I say this,all of you who don’t know diesels need to drive one and see for yourselves.

  10. pedro fernandez Says:

    G.A no argument from me there, pal I am just reflecting on the reaction of most buyers, pickup truck buyers love their diesels, but not sure about car buyers, maybe it’s that urea thing that some companies use, no one questions their durability, but the perception of dirty, smelly diesels prevails still.

  11. RS Says:

    John, you alluded to the botched management of Opel from Detroit over the past few decades. Current management of the North American branch of GM looks little better. Berating your employees does nothing but stifle innovation and independent thinking. People just duck for cover when the big bosses start throwing that kind of “mud” (insert your own word here!). Perhaps escape from idiocy would be the most important benefit to Opel an a spinoff scenario.

  12. HtG Says:

    Nice of GM and Chry to stiff arm the president that kept them in the cheese, directly with a few decabillions, by allowing them to decimate the dealer network, and by supporting the commercial finance market that makes the loans. You just dinged your brand again, Akerson. We’ll see if Obama wants his picture taken with the UAW.

    Opel. John, I’d like to hear a bit more about how GM let’s go of the engineering work done in Germany. Isn’t lots of the hybrid work done there under Opel? When does this become obsolete? (This said, I can’t help but think your ideas benefit from talking to those in the know)

  13. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Pedro: Understood my friend.Now,around here there are of course lots of diesel pickups,mostly old.You can hear them coming and going.That is of course the ‘old tech’ diesels,or clatterbangs as a friend of mine says.Then there are the new ones,Ford,GM,and of course Dodge.When they pull up,I have to look for the diesel badge to know it’s a diesel.Extremely quiet,and they don’t stink,LOL.Big differences to be sure.I think one of the best ways to get people into new diesel cars or trucks is to take one out for a test drive.VW has small diesels that would more then likely be indicative of what they are all about.

  14. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Another thing about the new diesels,at least the pickups,I believe all three have been certified to run B20.That is 20% biofuel/80% petro diesel.That beats the E10/E15 (soon to come)in ‘green’ terms.Yes there is E85,but there isn’t a pump within 200 miles of my location AND your mpg’s would drop like a rock.To me,that alone sounds more expensive to operate then a comparable diesel,lol.

  15. Jim Taylor Says:

    Doubt it will stop BO from touting his support of “thousands of jobs” or stop MR from decrying “letting market forces work”. Won’t stop Biden from putting his foot in his mouth and taking a big bite every week either…

  16. Jon M Says:

    John, I think a spin-off is the best case scenario for both Opel and GM. Of course, selling Opel certainly would not be feasible. However, I think GM needs to leave some amount of investment on the table before sending Opel out on their own; that is, they need to invest in Opel enough to set up them up to succeed. I agree that the German government would be far more willing to back a wholly German-owned brand, but minimizing the amount of a government bailout would create greater support. Besides, it’s the least GM could do for yet another brand they’ve run into the ground.

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The VW diesels work well, and get about 30% better mpg than theirgascounterparts. I don’t know the percentages, but it seems like an awful lot of the Golfs and Jetta wagons I see, especially on the highway, are TDI’s.

  18. Lex Says:

    John, I believe that GM attmpted the same scenario you are suggesting when it dumped Saab. The transition for Saab, and we all know, was a complete failure!

    GM Senior Brass are so removed from the real world that it is reflected in their products.
    Case in Point: The Chevy Cruze should be out selling all other vehicles in it’s class. If fact the Cruze is still lagging behind the Hyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.
    GM just can’t compete toe to toe with the other OEM’s on either Quailty, Reliability or Price.

    When will Dan Akerson step down finally and let Mark Reuss (a real car guy) take over?

  19. Jon M Says:

    Would the French government like some cheese with their whine? What a pitiful when-all-else-fails response to the free trade agreement and Hyundai/Kia’s sales lead! If you can’t beat them, accuse them. Remind you of anything here in the U.S.?

  20. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Today’s diesel pickups only make sense for those pulling heavy trailers, be cause the engines are too big for light use. Today’s gas pickups get better mpg empty or lightly loaded than the diesels. A 4 cylinder diesel of about 200 hp would be about right for “half ton” pickups.

  21. George S Says:

    How to save Opel.

    I like your idea John, handle Opel as a separate company and also to kick out the Americans. nothing sells more than a car made in Germany.

    My plan includes, set-up a 15 year old plan to establish itself in the market.
    Have a car on top of the Insignia.A new Omega. with a 4 door coupe variant.

    But the most important is have someone at the helm who will run it like Steve Jobs. The sole mission to make the best cars in the world, period.

  22. C-Tech Says:

    I think the Butler’s got it! Cars like the Volt, Leaf, and coming ELR right now are NOT direct replacements for ICE cars! (To me) They are in there own market, similar to sports cars (who compares the “return on investment” from a Lexus IS250 to a Toyota Corolla S ? 2 cars which are not in the same market). They are trying to reach, for lack of a better term, the “Green”or “Enviro-consious” consumer.

    It seems the problem with Diesel is making it 50-state legal with California being the hold-up.

    I belive your plan may work, however it is a big bet that the German government and people will make an 180-degree turn and support an independent Opel, with the same products they are not supporting now. Opel may be going the way of Saab if made independent, it just may take longer.

    Thank you to Craig and the gang for allowing me to “play” Friday.

  23. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ Kit: I never needed a 2/4 ton pu diesel or otherwise,as most people don’t I see very few 3/4 t pu’s pulling anything,lol..I heard that Dodge (Ram) might introduce a V-6 diesel in their half ton line (1500′s).I don’t know the power rating though.At least that’s a step in the right direction.There are LOTS of people though that still require a pickup,but not full sized,so a compact diesel pickup would rule the world and sell like hotcakes,in the USA of course.Every other country has had them available for decades.

  24. Greg Says:

    Hey John saw your input on how to fix opel today and I was woundering if you could start a new car company, have your own disign but put out for bid to the big three to build it for you. Kinda like Roger Penskie was going to do with Saturn, or fix Opel like that, or these other dieing name plates. Just wondering?


  25. gmveteran Says:


    Under your Opel liberation scenario, you mentioned that a Fiat-Opel-PSA tie-up would become possible. Does this mean that GM would be able to extricate itself from the highly questionable relationship it now has with PSA? That might add another billion or so onto the benefits of liberation!

  26. aliisdad Says:

    #18, I think your comments are right on…I really hate to see Opel go away, though..This may sound crazy, but I have always thought that GM should use Opel as a model for its car opperations while keeping truck design in the US…By the way, Opel has had a few trucks, too, including a recent one that might be an Isuzu…Anyway, I hope Opel is not the next Saab!!

  27. Chuck Grenci Says:

    We ‘arm chair quarterbacks’ can only speculate on certain aspects of the industry. The complexities are such that a few do-this/do-thats would likely put any company (that we talk about) into the ground. Beyond the bench racing, our conjectures only ‘seem’ to make the auto leaders look foolish, which in reality they aren’t (for the most part); it is us that don’t have the (real) clue here. But we do seem to enjoy ourselves trying though.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It seems that most of the reason people people buy diesel pickups is that it gives them a machofeeling, but I know two people who have bought them specifically for towng. One is a Chevy, which tows an Airstream, and the other a Dodge towing horses. The Airstream guy says his next one may be a gasser, unless fuel prices go up drastically. He has “run the numbers,” and the fuel savings aren’t enough to make up for th extra expense of buying and maintaining the diesel. Yes, the diesel is more expensive to maintain, with pricey, oil changes, fuel filters, etc.

  29. dcars Says:

    I’ve watched Opel for years and in fact it was probably a story about them that perked my interest in this site… With that being said, my feelings about Opel have changed from a car I’d like to own to one I’d never want to own. I’ve also come to the realization that Opel may have been a major reason why GM failed. Spinning them off might be a good idea, but breaking Opel up might be a good idea too! The German parts of the company are the poison pill. PSA, Vauxhall and the eastern European plants are easy to work with and could be valuable assets. Brand those items “GM” and let the German parts go.

  30. pedro fernandez Says:

    As Lutz always said: “product product product” so why is GM so preoccupied with mergers and such and just concentrate on what they put out, like Lex said, why is Cruze not beating the competition? by all accounts it is superior in most aspects to the others in the class, yet it is lagging behind them, there is still the quality issue, I mean look how bad Hyundai was a few yrs ago and now they’re up there with the best.

  31. Dave Says:

    I love the Opel solution you came up with, it sounds a lot more likely to succeed than anything else I’ve heard from GM in a while. But that said, since it makes sense, it probably won’t happen!

    As for the Cadillac ELR, I don’t think I buy the argument that people will buy an electric for its looks. I think most would agree the Tesla Roadster and Fisker Karma are both good looking cars and sales of those are going nowhere. Granted they’re a lot of money, but they’re not going to be giving that Caddy away either.

  32. T. Bejma Says:


    Need to check your facts…

    The Cruze is handily outselling the Elantra and right there in the mix with every other vehicle in its segment except the Civic. The quality and reliability of all of the vehicles in this class are top notch, including the Cruze (one of the only models with a 100,000 mile powertrain warranty proves it).

  33. T. Bejma Says:


    Hyundai quality will remain to be seen. I have been trying to find a 5 year old or older Hyundai in Michigan that doesn’t look like it has been through the ringer. Saw one today that was leaning to one side so bad I thought it was qualifying for a NASCAR circle track event.

    Everyone has such bad memories that they can’t remember when the Korean’s were the definition of crappy quality and now everybody wants to claim how great their quality is without any proof!

    The only thing hurting the Cruze right now is price. But then, you get what you pay for…

  34. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ #28:Yes Kit,diesel filters and fluid changes are more expensive,but are far less frequent then it’s gasser counterpart.And the real downside to heavy towing with a gasser is the extreme engine wear much sooner.Both Ford and Dodge used to (maybe they still do) offer V-10 gassers.I know more then a handful of owners that within a years time wished they had gotten the diesel instead,and their next trucks were in fact diesels.Any kind of frequent heavy towing is a waste with a gasser.They just don’t stand up to the task.

  35. T. Bejma Says:

    And look, another GM small car that gets good reviews…


  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It will be interesting to hear what my Airstream towing friend thinks of towing with a gasser, if he gets one in a few years.

  37. pedro fernandez Says:

    I want American cars to do well, it helps the economy and I’m tired of American products be considered low quality, like these idiots from Top Gear always putting down anything American, while their own stuff sucks so much, they’re now all owned by foreign makes, they really need to shut up and look at the history of their auto industry.

  38. pedro fernandez Says:

    anyone knows where I can rent a Cruze? Budget nor Enterprise have any.

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’ve seen Cruzes at Avis where I am.

    We keep hearing that it is bad for manufacturers to sell cars to fleets, because it depresses resale value and other things, but if a car is any good, it would seem to be a good thing to have some out there for people to rent and get an “extended test drive.”

  40. Kate McLeod Says:

    As someone pointed out to me, GM doesn’t need to be in Europe at all. They’re not important in Europe and they’re not going to be and there are worlds to conquer. I thought that made a lot of sense. There was a time when Opel was important to GM, but I think those days are gone

  41. cwolf Says:

    Spinning off Opel,with the idea of gov’t support, is like giving a house back to the bank when behind in payments. Great when the owner is not overly invested, but not too good for one who has made payments for a long period. If Opel was to eventually turn a profit,the gov’t would want it’s 20% stake off the top! Then the German union rules would still hinder Opel’s need of flexability. I would not include the gov’t unless they and the union agreed to enough plant closures to guarantee 85% or greater utilization….for starters.

  42. cwolf Says:

    Diesels are now popular down under, but here in the US, all we have been getting for YEARS is faulse promises… when it comes to cars. The Jetta TDI is the best thing going, but urea costs, 100K mile rubber timing belt, added fuel costs,ect, still makes owning one a loosing proposition for the majority. Future cars, like the 3 banger Focus and Fiesta will be a better deal.

  43. cwolf Says:

    Hyundai-Kia dumping cars in Euroland? No way! Thats as bad as beliving the Chinese copies various truck and car models to a tee and flaunts it!!

  44. pedro fernandez Says:

    #39 agreed as long as they’re well maintained, the major agencies do a good job, but there are a lot of Mickey Mouse rental places that do not and if you rent a car you maybe interested in and it does not run well, you most likely will look elsewhere, it has happened to me a few times, one recent was from Enterprise, a Sonata with about 23k miles with bad pull to the right, told them about it, they gave it to someone who was waiting for it, and Budget gave me a Cobalt that failed to start on me a couple of times, I told them about it and they just rented it right out.

  45. pedro fernandez Says:

    Just filled up $40 for my “economy” Corolla, bring on them 3 bangers please! BTW just read online by Yahoo autos that the Ford C-Max is the Prius killer??? They said the same of the Fiesta, the Fit killer, well not only is the Fit doing well in its segment, it continues to win comparo reviews.

  46. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Golf TDI and Jetta wagon TDI were the other cars on my shopping list when I got my Prius, but there were too many tradeoffs. The VW’s wuld be more fun, and would match the mpg of the Prius under some conditions, like moderate speed highway, but…

    Diesel fuel costs more, about 10% more where I am. They still use a timing belt, 120K change interval for the new ones, for about 1,000 bucks unless you do it yourself.
    Also, VW still has iffy reliability. What I’d love to see is a diesel Prius. Instead of the 47 mpg overall mileage I’m getting, I’d probably get 77.

  47. cwolf Says:

    #45 I think the C-Max might prove it’s worth. It may not have the cargo capacity of the prius,but it looks better and is said to drive and ride better, as well. Something ta wait for…for sure! The Fiesta is a very nice subie. It’s only problem is $$$.

  48. cwolf Says:

    Kit, if a small diesel is put into a prius…, I’ll but one in a jiffy and would’nt hesitate to park it in front of the union shop window!

  49. cwolf Says:

    sorry! I’ll buy a prius ,,not but one.

  50. Kit Gerhart Says:

    C-max will be interesting. It will be competing with the Prius V, rather than the regular Prius like mine, but it sounds like it will do well. If the Ford turns out as good as yahoo and others are claiming, they should make an aero hybrid hatch for people like me who want good mpg in city driving AND high speed on the interstate.

  51. T. Bejma Says:


    According to Wards, Ford has sold over 15K Fiesta’s compared to 12K Fit’s, so it looks like, as we know, reviews aren’t everything…

  52. pedro fernandez Says:

    I guess Ford must have dropped the price of the Fiesta, they initially scared away buyers with the high prices of the loaded samples they sent out to dealers.

  53. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Fiesta, probably more than most most cars in its class, has a very wide price range depending on how it is optioned. If you want a “cheap” one, though, it looks like you have to order it, based on what I’ve seen in dealer stock.

  54. pedro fernandez Says:

    #53 Kit take a look at the price of the Fiesta double clutch tranny, it is very expensive compared to the competition, so unless you get the stick and skip the my touch system, you will spend a lot.

  55. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Yeah, the very cheapest Fiesta sedan is $13,995 and the hatch is $14,995 MSRP. Those have crank windows, and no cruise control. Cruise is not available on the base car. To get cruise, you have to get the SE which is $17K with a manual transmission, and over 18K with the automatic. This kind of reminds me why I didn’t consider a Fiesta very long when I bought my MINI.

  56. pedro fernandez Says:

    But you know most makers make you get a more expensive version to get cruise control, which for someone who does a lot of highway travel, it’s a necessity not a luxury option, used to be you could get it dealer installed for a couple of hundred dollars but I don’t think you can do that anymore. Yesterday I met a fellow who wanted a Subaru wagon with 4 cyl and nav system, since the company does not make such a model, he go a dealer in Texas to put a factor nave system in a 4 cyl model so he could buy it, I believe that’s going beyond the call of duty.

  57. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’ve installed cruise on older cars, the first being a Plymouth Duster. My car had a manual transmission, and the kit I had was for an automatic, so I rigged up a microswitch to disengage the cruise when I pushed the clutch. I think you can still get dealer installed cruise on some cars, but probably not many.

    The guy with the Subaru should have just saved a few thousand bucks and gotten a $150 Garmin or TomTom. It would work as well as, or better than most factory nav systems. My smart phone has all the nav system I need.

  58. pedro fernandez Says:

    But Kit it was more than just the nav, it was the whole integrated system that Subie offers on the high end models with the 6 cyl

  59. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It would be stuff I wouldn’t want, but some people do, and are willing to pay quite a bit for it. I bet it cost him quite a bit extra for his car, compared to what the 6 cylinder would have been. Shop time and replacement parts aren’t cheap. I guess they may have gotten salvage parts, though.

  60. pedro fernandez Says:

    He said he did it for the mileage, the 4 is supposed to get a lot more MPG’s than the 6, but still that is one expensive add-on, I remember reading one time that if you wanted to build a car from scratch, paying normal tech wages and prices for all parts, it would be 3 or 4 times as expensive as a car out of the assembly line.

  61. 97 Sentra Says:

    Your Opel solution is the one that almost happened in 2009 and everybody involved (GM, Opel, American and German government) was for it. But then GM changed their mind because they needed three Opel models and the factories over there to rebadge them as Buicks. With the production now moved to North America, they are now considering closing Opel again – but wait, there is more: now GM has an agreement with Peugeot-Citroen, and now French cars are to be manufactured in German Opel factories, while there are layoffs in France. If your head isn’t spinning yet, I don’t know what to tell you…..