NationsBank Corp.'s "preferred" customers in Texas recently received a letter inviting them to lock in a pre-approved five-year car loan for up to $20,000. The 7.49% annual percentage rate comes with 100% financing and no down payment.

A bit generous? Perhaps. But the NationsBank offer, good until June 30, is by no means unusual in today's auto lending market. For the past year and a half, ever since the economic recovery began, auto lenders have been going fender to fender in ferocious competition.

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