You love it. You hate it. You fear it.
But ignore Consumer Reports magazine at your peril.
Consumers Union, a nonprofit group formed during the Depression to warn consumers about shoddy cosmetics, foods and household goods, has scrutinized new cars since 1936. It launched its annual auto review magazine in 1953.
Since then its test ratings and surveys have been the Bible of unbiased recommendations for auto shoppers. There are 6.9 million paid subscribers to the magazine and its Web site, ConsumerReports.org.
When Consumer Reports likes a vehicle -- like the Hyundai Sonata -- dealer sales have been known to rise. But when it dislikes something -- like the control buttons on the Ford Edge -- things have been known to go poorly.
Automakers react to negative reviews, whether it is to re-do software for a Lexus stability control system or to appoint a new quality-control executive at Volkswagen Group of America.
Currently, Ford Motor Co. is scrambling to address the magazine's beef with the control buttons. Consumer Report's displeasure with what it called "overly complicated" controls resulted in the Edge losing the coveted "recommended buy" status.
But it is one of the oddities of the U.S. auto industry that, although automakers feel the effects of Consumers Reports' reviews, the magazine's power remains hard to measure. Consumer Reports itself doesn't track its influence, says Rik Paul, a 30-year veteran of automotive journalism and editor of the organization's automotive publications.
"Our mission is really just to tell people what's the best car for them, based on our testing and surveys," Paul says. "What happens after that -- that's not something we consider."