TODAY

– September 2, 2014

Twitter tunes in to TV partnerships ahead of IPO

(AP) — People don't just watch TV anymore; they talk about it on Twitter. From the comfort of couches, they share reactions to touchdowns and nail-biting season finales — and advertisers and networks are taking note.

Examples of Twitter's influence abound. The recent finale of "Breaking Bad" generated a record 1.24 million tweets. The conversation peaked at 22,373 tweets per minute according to analytics firm SocialGuide. People used the hashtag "GoodbyeBreakingBad" nearly 500,000 times. During this year's Super Bowl, sports fans generated 24 million tweets about the competition and nearly half of the game's nationally televised commercials contained hashtags that encouraged viewers to tweet.

Twitter, says Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at research firm eMarketer, "creates a community, a bond between people that doesn't really exist without Twitter."

As Twitter prepares for its initial public offering, the San Francisco-based company is also working hard to insert itself into the TV advertising economy. In recent months, the social networking company has forged partnerships with television content owners such as CBS, MTV and the NFL through a program it calls Amplify. The platform lets content owners beam real-time video clips to Twitter users who may have seen —or could be interested in — their TV programming. It also allows marketers to communicate with viewers who saw their TV ads, extending commercial pitches to consumers' smartphones and tablets.

TV tie-ins allow Twitter to diversify its revenue stream beyond the relatively small niche of digital advertising campaigns, a move that should appeal to potential investors. On Thursday, Twitter unsealed documents for a Wall Street debut that could take place before Thanksgiving. While the company did not reveal how much money it makes from its TV partnerships, it touted its own "strength as a second screen for television programming."

Twitter wrote in its S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that "45% of television ads shown during the Super Bowl used a hashtag to invite viewers to engage in conversation about those television ads on Twitter."

Twitter's public nature makes it an especially attractive platform for tracking live-TV conversations. So much so that Nielsen recently began using Twitter's data to measure online social activity around TV programming, starting with this fall's TV season.

Nielsen will release its first "Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings" report on Monday. The study measures TV-related conversations on the social network. Nielsen found that in the second quarter of this year, 19 million people wrote 263 million tweets about live TV events, up 38 percent from a year earlier.

Some 19 million people tweet about TV shows, a 24 percent increase from last year. The audience measurement firm also found that many people read tweets about TV shows while they watch them — even if they don't post anything themselves. As a result, Nielsen says the Twitter TV audience for an average episode is 50 times larger than the number of people who are Tweeting about a show.

Separately, Nielsen found that the "Breaking Bad" finale was by far the most tweeted-about program last week.

On Sunday, the NFL showed just how Twitter-enabled promotions work. Minutes after Cincinnati cornerback Adam Jones intercepted New England's Tom Brady, ending the quarterback's streak of 52 games with a touchdown pass, the NFL posted a video clip on Twitter. The clip shows Jones bobbling, and then snagging the ball before it hits the ground.

The 32-second clip was prefaced by an 8-second video ad for a Verizon Droid mobile phone. "Adam Jones ends the Pats undefeated season, Brady's TD streak AND a rainstorm. With 1 INT," the league tweeted.

By inserting itself into the online buzz, the NFL was able to remind people the game was going on live at its NFL Network channel. Meanwhile, it earned new revenue from Verizon, a longtime sponsor that wanted to showcase its NFL Mobile app.

The NFL has more than 5.1 million followers on Twitter. But its new partnership with Twitter means the tweet also went out to millions of other users who might be interested.

Hans Schroeder, the NFL's senior vice president of media strategy and development, says he expects promoted tweets will eventually reach tens of millions of fans, multiplying its reach.

"We think it'll drive tune-in to our games and drive more people into the experience through NFL Mobile," Schroeder says.

As part of the deal, Twitter shares some of the revenue from Verizon's advertising spend when the phone company pays for "promoted tweets." Previously, the money might have gone only to the league itself.

Twitter's projected 2013 revenue is about $582 million, according to research firm eMarketer. At the moment, the company generates tens of millions of dollars of revenue from all of its TV deals, including those with ESPN, Turner networks, CBS and others, according to Brian Wieser, an analyst with Pivotal Research Group.

That's not huge. However, says Wieser: "This year, it's about getting the foot in the door."

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter estimates that Twitter gets just a small fraction of its revenue from the TV deals — around 1 percent. But by next year, the deals could amount to 5 percent, and 15 percent the year after, he says.

Twitter isn't alone in its quest to befriend TV content companies. Facebook, too, is recognizing the value of live TV chatter. Because of its sheer size — nearly 1.2 billion users versus Twitter's 218 million — Facebook has more conversations than any other social network. During the "Breaking Bad" finale, more than 3 million people generated 5.5 million "interactions," that is, status updates, comments or "likes."

For now, Facebook's TV partnerships are not intended to generate revenue, the company says. Rather, they are "focused on helping people discover great content," says Justin Osofsky, Facebook's vice president of media partnerships.

Over the past few months, Facebook has rolled out more Twitter-like features as competition between the world's leading social networks heats up. There are now hashtags on Facebook, and the company is encouraging celebrities to use its site to interact with fans — just as many of them do on Twitter.

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Written on 09/02/2014, 9:28 am by Business Journal staff
Home prices in Fresno were up 7.6 percent in July compared to last year, according to a new report from CoreLogic.
Written on 09/02/2014, 8:52 am by 
MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Technology Writer
(AP) — Netflix is giving its Internet video subscribers a more discreet way to recommend movies and TV shows to their Facebook friends after realizing most people don't want to share their viewing habits with large audiences. Until now, Netflix subscribers linking the service to their Facebook accounts automatically disclosed everything they were watching with a potentially wide-reaching range of people. The company believes the open-ended approach discouraged most Netflix subscribers from connecting their accounts with their Facebook profiles. The automatic disclosures will end Tuesday as Netflix Inc. embraces a new system that empowers subscribers to select which friends will receive their video recommendations. A menu of friends culled from Facebook will appear after Netflix subscribers finish watching a video if they have turned on the sharing feature. The move reflects Facebook's evolution into a service where people have allowed passing acquaintances into their networks, along with close friends and family. "There are a lot of people on Facebook that you don't really know that well," said Cameron Johnson, Netflix's director of product development. Netflix believes people will share their viewing experiences if they are given more control over who sees what they've been watching. The Los Gatos, California, company, in turn, hopes the recommendations will deepen subscriber loyalty and attract new customers. "If you are really moved by a piece of content and you know someone in your life that would like it, you are going to want them to watch it too, so you can talk about it and get excited about it together," Johnson said. Netflix began offering the Facebook sharing option to subscribers outside the U.S. in 2011. U.S. subscribers got that option 18 months ago. The Facebook recommendations are limited to subscribers of Netflix' video-streaming service, which costs $8 or $9 per month in the U.S. The streaming service has 50 million subscribers worldwide. There are no plans to extend the Facebook recommendations to the DVD-by-mail service, which is steadily shrinking. Netflix ended June with 6.3 million DVD subscribers, less than half the number it had three years ago. The recommendations made under the new sharing system will appear in a few ways.If both people are Netflix subscribers who have connected to Facebook, the recommendation will appear as a marquee attraction at the top of the recipient's Netflix page. The Facebook profile picture of the person touting the video also will appear alongside the recommendation. A subscriber's recommendation will be sent as a Facebook message if the recipient isn't a Netflix subscriber or hasn't connected a Netflix account to Facebook. The recommendations will no longer appear on the customers' Facebook profile page or the news feeds that their friends see. To make it possible for its U.S. subscribers to share what they're watching, Netflix had to persuade lawmakers last year to revise a 1988 law that banned the disclosure of video rental records without a customer's written consent.
Written on 09/02/2014, 8:49 am by 
CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — Dollar General upped its bid for the rival Family Dollar chain and addressed an earlier roadblock, saying that it will more than double the number of stores it would shed to ease the antitrust concerns of its takeover target. The newest bid is worth $9.1 billion, or $80 per share, up from $78.50 per share in the previous offer. Family Dollar, based in Matthews, North Carolina, rejected the earlier bid in favor of a lower offer of $8.5 billion from Dollar Tree Inc., saying that regulators were less likely to stand in the way. Family Dollar said Tuesday that it has received Dollar General's latest bid and will review it. Dollar General, the country's largest dollar-store chain, says it would now divest as many as 1,500 stores, well above the 700 that it had originally agreed to, in order to sidestep any anti-monopoly actions that regulators might pursue. The Goodlettsville, Tennessee, company has also said it will pay a $500 million reverse break-up fee to Family Dollar Stores Inc. if the deal hits antitrust roadblocks. Dollar General Chairman and CEO Rick Dreiling said that a second antitrust review supported its prior bid, but that its offer was revised "to demonstrate the seriousness of our commitment." The businesses of Family Dollar and Dollar General are more similar than Dollar Tree's. The first two sell items at a variety of prices while at Dollar Tree, all items are a buck. Family Dollar has been looking for a lifeline after running into some financial stress, shuttering stores and cutting prices. In June one big shareholder, Carl Icahn, urged the company to put itself up for sale. Family Dollar acted one month later, accepting an offer from Chesapeake, Virginia-based Dollar Tree Inc. of $59.60 in cash and the equivalent of $14.90 in shares of Dollar Tree for each share held. The companies valued the transaction at $74.50 per share at the time. Including debt and other costs, Family Dollar and Dollar Tree estimated the deal to be worth approximately $9.2 billion. Family Dollar said its board is still supportive of a deal with Dollar Tree and that it won't comment further on Dollar General's revised offer until the board has completed its review. Shares of Family Dollar added 54 cents to $80.37 in premarket trading, while Dollar General's stock gained 86 cents to $64.85.
Written on 09/02/2014, 8:47 am by CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — U.S. manufacturing grew in August at the strongest pace in more than three years as factories cranked out more goods and new orders rose. The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index rose to 59 from 57.1 in July, the ISM said Tuesday. That was the highest reading since March 2011. Any measure above 50 signals that manufacturing is growing. Tuesday's ISM report coincides with other signs that manufacturing is helping drive the U.S. economy's improvement. Factories are benefiting from strong demand for aircraft, furniture, and steel and other metals. The boost from manufacturing has helped offset slower homebuilding, a slowdown in consumer purchases and weaker spending on utilities and other services. "The U.S. economy is on a notably firmer growth track this summer, even if consumers are riding in the caboose," Sal Guatieri, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, wrote in a research note. The ISM's gauge of production rose to the highest level in four years, and a measure of new orders reached its highest point in 10 years. That suggests that the sector should grow further in coming months. Factories also added jobs last month, though at a slightly slower pace than in July. U.S. manufacturers face some challenges overseas. A measure of export orders rose, but comments from several respondents to ISM's survey said turmoil in Ukraine and slower growth in China were weighing on business. A European manufacturing index fell to 50.7 in August, a 13-month low, according to a report Monday. And two surveys in China showed that manufacturing growth also slowed in August. Bradley Holcomb, chair of the ISM's manufacturing survey committee, said a big jump in orders for aircraft reported by Boeing in July could be feeding through to its suppliers and boosting the ISM's index of new orders. Still, the strength in new orders is "broad-based at this time," Holcomb said on a conference call with reporters. The Federal Reserve has reported that factory output rose 1 percent in July, the sixth straight monthly gain. Production of autos, furniture, textiles and metals all rose. Orders for big-ticket factory goods such as autos and appliances also soared in July, though the gain reflected mainly a jump in demand for Boeing's commercial aircraft. Such orders tend to be volatile from month to month. Excluding the transportation category, orders actually slipped last month. And a key category that serves as a proxy for business investment plans fell 0.5 percent. But that dip followed a big 5.4 percent gain the previous month. Greater consumer spending may be needed to keep driving factory growth. Consumers cut back their spending 0.1 percent in July, the government said, the first decline since January. The decline was led by lower spending on autos. The U.S. economy grew at a 4.2 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, the government said last week. That was much better than the 2.1 percent contraction in the first three months of the year.
Written on 09/02/2014, 8:45 am by 
TOM KRISHER, AP Auto Writer
(AP) — Big discounts. Six- or seven-year loans, in some cases to buyers who would have been turned down in the past. As the auto industry strives to sustain its post-recession comeback, car companies are resorting to tactics that some experts warn will lead to trouble down the road. Vehicle discounts have risen 5.5 percent from a year ago. More than a quarter of new buyers are choosing to lease, a historically high percentage. Auto company lending arms are making more loans to people with low credit scores. The industry is adding factory capacity. And the average price of a car keeps rising, forcing some customers to borrow for longer terms to keep payments down. Annual auto sales in the U.S. should top 16 million for the first time in seven years. But the pent-up consumer demand that has driven sales is ebbing. Sales are predicted to grow 5.5 percent this year, the slowest pace since the financial crisis. The big discounts and other steps eventually should help push sales above 17 million, most experts say. But Honda Motor Co. U.S. sales chief John Mendel last week scolded competitors for using "short-term" tactics such as subprime loans, 72-month terms and increased sales to rental car companies to pad their sales. "We have no desire to go there," said Mendel, whose company's sales through July have fallen 1.3 percent, trailing the industry. Some on Wall Street see a price to pay. "It could be a disaster later on," says Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas. "We're clearly robbing Peter to pay Paul." He sees sales growing to an annual rate of 18 million in 2017 — then sinking to 14 million a year later. That will mean factory closings, restructurings, and thousands of job cuts just for companies to break even. Not all forecasts are that dire and on one — not even Jonas — is predicting a repeat of billion-dollar losses and cars piling up on dealer lots. Automakers have cut costs and are better positioned to handle a downturn than they were in 2008 and 2009. Still, easier credit brings back not-so-fond memories for at least one auto dealer. "It just seems like 2007 all over again," said veteran Toyota dealer Earl Stewart of North Palm Beach, Florida. "The credit ease with which people are financed is as liberal and loose as it ever was." Among the numbers that concern some experts: — $2,702: Average discount per new car through July. They're heaviest in two segments: Midsize cars (up almost 21 percent through July) and compacts (up 10 percent). Automakers need to move the cars because a lot of factory space is committed to building them. — 12.7 percent: The year-over-year increase last quarter in auto loans to "Deep Subprime" buyers — those with credit scores lower than 550. Loans to "subprime" buyers (credit score lower than 620) rose 5.3 percent, according to Experian. Combined, both are just over 12 percent of all auto loans. Those with lower credit scores generally have a higher default risk. — 32 percent: Percentage of auto loans that are 72 months or longer, up from 23 percent in 2008, according to LMC Automotive. Longer loans keep buyers out of the market because it takes longer to build equity for a trade-in. — 26 percent: Percentage of sales that are leases, up from 18 percent in 2008, according to LMC. A flood of expiring leases in three years could depress used-car prices, hurting new car sales. — 70 percent: The increase last quarter in auto repossessions, according to Experian Automotive. Sixty-day delinquencies are up 7 percent. Still, both are below 1 percent of all auto loans. Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, sees trouble in the juicy discounts. In 2007, spending on incentives was just under 9 percent of the average sales price for a vehicle. That dropped to around 8 percent in 2012 and 2013. It's back up to 8.4 percent and likely will rise toward 9 percent later in the year, he says. Based on an average sales price of just over $32,000, the additional discounts would cost the industry almost $5.2 billion per year. "This was the trap that got everyone in trouble before the recession," Brauer says. Others are more sanguine. Melinda Zabritski, senior director of auto finance for Experian, says repossessions and delinquencies still are extremely low. And longer loan terms keep payments down, reducing late payments and defaults. Former Hyundai U.S. CEO John Krafcik, now head of the TrueCar.com auto pricing site, says used-car values should fall from current record highs, will fall to a normal level as leased cars enter the market. Those who lease will be shopping again every three years. All automakers report sales on Wednesday, and most analysts are predicting the numbers will be flat compared to 2013. That's still a strong month, with an annual sales rate of 16.5 million or more.
Written on 09/02/2014, 8:42 am by CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — U.S. home prices rose in July but at a slower rate compared with earlier this year. The moderating price increases could help support sales. Real estate data provider CoreLogic said Tuesday that prices rose 7.4 percent in July from July 2013. That was slightly below June's year-over-year increase of 7.5 percent and far below a recent peak of 11.9 percent in February. Prices rose 1.2 percent in July from June. But CoreLogic's monthly figures aren't adjusted for seasonality, such as increased buying that occurs in warm weather. The smaller price gains should make homes more affordable. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 4.1 percent last week, the lowest in a year. And the number of available homes rose 3.5 percent in July to the most in nearly two years. A greater supply tends to limit the bidding wars that inflate prices. Greater affordability has helped housing recover over the spring and summer after sales and construction fell earlier this year. Sales of existing homes rose for a fourth straight month in July to their strongest pace in nine months. And a measure of signed contracts also increased in July, suggesting that final sales will rise further in coming months. Home prices rose in 49 states in July from the previous year but fell in Arkansas, CoreLogic said. Michigan experienced the biggest price gain, at 11.4 percent. It was followed by Maine, at 10.6 percent; Nevada, 10.6 percent; Hawaii 10.5 percent; and California, at 10.5 percent. Prices in 11 states and Washington, D.C., have now completely rebounded from the housing bust and reached new highs. Those states are: Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont. Some mixed signals have emerged about the housing market. Home construction jumped 15.7 percent in July to an eight-month high as developers broke ground on more single-family homes and apartment buildings. But sales of new homes fell that month, which could limit future construction. Housing helped boost the economy in the April-June quarter, when growth reached an annual rate of 4.2 percent. Housing had subtracted from growth in the previous two quarters.
Written on 09/02/2014, 8:40 am by The Associated Press
(AP) — A bank refused to offer mortgages to African-Americans living in Buffalo, New York's attorney general said in a lawsuit that he said was part of a wider investigation into an illegal practice known as redlining. Evans Bank violated fair housing and discrimination laws by intentionally denying services and products to Buffalo's east side, home to more than 75 percent of the city's African-American population, the federal lawsuit alleges. The bank's president, David Nasca, called the accusations "meritless." He said Evans, which has 13 branches in western New York, will vigorously defend itself. "We remain confident that our residential lending practices meet all applicable laws and regulations," Nasca said in a statement emailed to The Associated Press. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's lawsuit alleges that Evans used a map to define its lending area that excluded the city's east side. The company is also accused of refusing to market its loan products or locate its branches in the area. Schneiderman said the lawsuit is part of a wider investigation by his office into redlining, in which a lender denies access to mortgages or charges more in certain neighborhoods based on race. "Redlining is illegal and it's discriminatory — and must, once and for all, be made a thing of the past," Schneiderman said. "It is crucial that all New Yorkers, regardless of the color of their skin or the racial composition of their neighborhood, be afforded an equal opportunity to obtain credit."
Written on 09/02/2014, 8:31 am by COREY WILLIAMS, Associated Press
(AP) — Starting Tuesday, lawyers for Detroit will attempt to convince a federal judge at the city's bankruptcy trial that its plans to wipe out the city's billions of dollars in debt should be approved. After some delays, the trial in U.S. District Court begins a little more than 13 months after Detroit became the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy. Detroit expects to cut $12 billion in unsecured debt to about $5 billion, which is "more manageable," according to Bill Nowling, a spokesman for state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr, who has been in charge of Detroit's finances since March 2013. Most creditors, including more than 30,000 retirees and city employees, have endorsed the plan of adjustment put together by Orr, who guided Chrysler through its bankruptcy, and his restructuring team. The plan includes commitments from the state, major corporations, foundations and others to donate more than $800 million over 20 years to soften cuts to city pensions. In return, pieces in the city-owned Detroit Institute of Arts would be placed into a trust to keep them from being sold to satisfy creditors. General retirees would take a 4.5 percent pension cut and lose annual inflation adjustments. Retired police officers and firefighters would lose only a portion of their annual cost-of-living raise. The strongest opposition to the plan has come from bond insurers like New York-based Syncora Guarantee. Syncora has said its claim is about $400 million and that Detroit has unfairly discriminated against financial creditors. "It has been a very fast-track bankruptcy, which Syncora has no issue with," company attorney James Sprayregen said. "Syncora's issue is the lack of transparency of the process and the unfair treatment of its claims." Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes has scheduled additional hearing dates, if needed, into October. But in the end, bankruptcy expert Anthony Sabino expects Rhodes to approve Detroit's bankruptcy plan — followed by appeals from creditors.
Written on 08/29/2014, 3:22 pm by Leah
Vice President for Corporate Communications Community Medical Centers What we do: Community Medical Centers is the largest healthcare provider in central California, with three hospitals and several outpatient centers. Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism; Public Relations Master’s Degree in Business Administration Age:  46 Family: Husband Ron Von Tersch,  Sons James, Matt, Andrew and Jack Tell us about your new role as Vice President for Corporate Communications. I oversee operations for Communications — marketing and public relations — and Fund Development.  In my new role, I’ll also have the opportunity to work more closely with our Government Relations and Public Affairs office.   Tell us about how you first joined Community Medical Centers. I worked in the news department at ABC30 before joining Community in 1998 as communication specialist. Community had taken over operations of the then Valley Medical Center and the region’s only burn and Level 1 trauma center.  I was hired to leverage the media attention a service like that brings and build stronger working relationships with our local media.   Tell us about the importance of corporate communications in era of social media. It’s a perfect paradigm of ‘the more things change, the more things stay the same.’ What hasn’t changed is the power and influence of ‘word-of-mouth’ communication. What has changed is that today we can share our personal opinion and experience with literally hundreds or thousands of people with one tweet or Facebook post. Social media can be a tremendous communication asset for businesses who embrace it and join or promote conversations with their customers.  What are some pro tips you can offer to businesses when it comes to internal or external communications? A business or organization should never underestimate the importance of internal communications. Employers tend to first think about how customers or potential customers will respond to news about their organization. It’s even more important that your employees understand and support your organization’s position or direction. Because they will be your best advocates. That’s particularly true for Community Medical Centers — with 7,000 employees and 1,100 affiliated physicians, our workforce is our most important and influential audience. What was the best advice you ever received? Surround yourself with people you admire and can learn from — from the employees you hire to be part of your team, to relationships you develop outside your organization. Also, one of the most important things you can do to boost your career is to learn how to write well. Insightful, persuasive and diplomatic written communication is a powerful thing. What are your roots in the Central Valley? My roots in the Central Valley run pretty deep. I grew up in the Caruthers area — I went to the same elementary school and high school my parents and grandmother did. I completed by undergraduate degree at Fresno State and returned a few years ago to get my MBA. What was your very first job and what did you learn from it? Technically my first job was helping a neighbor clean her house. I think I was 12.  She was so complimentary and appreciative. I remember how great it was to feel valued. It made me want to work harder and do an even better job. That’s such an important reminder for a leader. What do you like to do in your free time? Our boys commandeer a lot of my free time and I’m happiest when I’m around them. But if I have an hour to myself I’m most likely reading. And, I almost always have a home-improvement project in the works.
Written on 08/29/2014, 1:48 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — The Standard & Poor's 500 is ending the week at a record high after a day of quiet trading. Chip maker Avago Technologies jumped nearly 8 percent after reporting earnings that beat analysts' estimates. The latest reports on the U.S. economy were mixed. Consumer sentiment improved in August, while spending fell and income growth slowed in July. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose six points, or 0.3 percent, to finish at 2,003.37, an all-time high, Friday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 18 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,098. The Nasdaq composite rose 22 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,580. Bond prices barely budged. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held at 2.34 percent.

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Written on 09/02/2014, 8:49 am by 
CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — Dollar General upped its bid for...
Written on 09/02/2014, 8:47 am by CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER, AP Economics Writer
(AP) — U.S. manufacturing grew in...
Written on 09/02/2014, 8:45 am by 
TOM KRISHER, AP Auto Writer
(AP) — Big discounts. Six- or...
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