That is according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2001 Dealer Attitude Study to be released today, Dec. 17.
Dave Power, chairman of the Agoura Hills, Calif., research company, said he believes the 0 percent new-car finance programs started by automakers in late September helped improve manufacturers' relationships with dealers.
Still, dealers who responded to the survey complained that factories are squeezing them financially by cutting back on marketing programs and on the labor rate allowance dealerships receive for warranty work. Dealers also expressed concern that poor vehicle quality eats into their profits.
Power said the auto industry has been cutting costs for 15 years, and it should be no surprise that some of that belt-tightening is felt at the retail level.
Domestic dealers are less satisfied with the manufacturer than their import counterparts, Power said.
"Manufacturers can't keep going with heavy investments in rebates and incentives," Power said. "We see nothing but more pressure at retail to reduce costs and overhead; we will see that over the next five years."
The industry average was 93 on the index J.D. Power uses to calculate the rankings, up from 88 the year before. The average had fallen annually from a score of 100 in 1994.
Lexus retained the No. 1 spot in the survey, a position it has held since 1998. Oldsmobile ranked at the bottom.
Saturn was the only dmoestic make to score above the industry average. It finished at 146, compared with 159 for top-ranked Lexus.