Consumer Reports caused a stir with a study suggesting auto salespeople weren't sharp enough, or conscientious enough, to give shoppers complete information on all the rebates available to them.
The magazine's survey of 13,700 shoppers found that only 60 percent of prospective vehicle buyers were offered cash rebates and only 40 percent of buyers were offered available low-financing rates.
But critics are blasting sloppy methodology that didn't make it clear how many of those shoppers were looking at vehicles that offered incentives.
"The study lacks credibility," says David Hyatt, head of public affairs at the National Automobile Dealers Association.
"It's counterintuitive as well. The dealers in such a competitive environment have every reason to close a transaction, and incentives help them to close the transaction. It is true that the incentives change, sometimes hourly, and it's complex to stay on top of incentives every minute. But the dealers have every motivation to get this done."
Consumer Reports concedes there were loose ends. But it said it did a service by reminding shoppers that they have to do their research before walking into a dealership, and ask a lot of questions when they get there.
"Whether or not a model or trim line had a rebate isn't known for the survey," says Gene Lomoriello, a Consumer Reports spokesman. "The most important information we're conveying is what helps consumers ask good questions and helps them properly negotiate in the dealership environment."