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Buyers rate their car dealers

Four luxury-car makers and General Motors' Saturn top a widely watched ranking of how dealerships treat automobile buyers.

Infiniti, the luxury division of Japan's Nissan Motor Corp., finished No. 1 in the J.D. Power & Associates study released Thursday.

Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln came in second. GM's Cadillac, Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus and Saturn tied for third among car lines.

Traditional U.S. automakers fared particularly well.

Eight U.S. nameplates finished above the industry average of 121. Two Japanese and six European nameplates were above average.

Sixteen nameplates finished below average: eight Japanese; six American; one Korean and one German.

Powers does not release rankings for those automobiles that fall below the industry average.

Power, based in Agoura Hills, Calif., is a marketing company that rates cars and trucks in a variety of surveys that are closely watched by the auto industry and often used in carmaker ads.

The dealership survey rankings are based on the performance of sales representatives and other dealership personnel, including how well they greet people and their knowledge of the automobile. Comments from more than 45,000 consumer respondents to surveys were used to compile the ranking.

"A story is developing in this vehicle owner assessment of showroom experiences _ mainstream Japanese nameplates consistently lag the industry average," said J.D. Power III, founder and president.

Automakers increasingly are pouring money and time into training dealers to treat customers better.

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