English: Covisint making progress

Kevin English has had to muster all of his sales experience in his bid to re-energize Covisint, the online automotive exchange that got off to a sluggish start last year.

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English, considered a gifted salesman by present and past colleagues, has been doggedly courting business from automakers and suppliers.

He was named CEO of the automotive exchange on April 18 after an exhaustive 14-month search. English, 48, began his duties May 1.

"I think the auto companies, the OEMs, are beginning to really get behind Covisint and start using a broad array of product and services that we offer," English said. "The suppliers have been a little bit more skeptical. Although I will say this, that those walls are coming down, and I think they are much more receptive to our message than they were."

English speaks at 8:30 a.m Friday.

Ford Motor Co., General Motors and DaimlerChrysler created Covisint in February 2000 to bring the speed and efficiency of electronic commerce to the automotive industry. Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co. joined the Big 3 soon after as equity partners in the venture.

Since English arrived, Covisint has added PSA/Peugeot -Citroen SA as a stakeholder.

On Tuesday, Delphi Automotive Systems Corp. said it will require its 5,000 global suppliers to join Covisint.

English would not divulge Covisint revenues this year, saying it is a private company.

"We are making steady progress," English said. "Our revenues are accelerating; our costs have come down; and we're driving this ship to break even and, ultimately, to profitability."

The ship is experiencing change in its crew, too.

Jacqui Dedo, Covisint's sales chief, left the company last week. No replacement has been named.

Also planning to leave are Rico Digirolamo, acting CFO, who will return to GM, and Doug Van Daagens, senior vice president of business development, will return to Ford.

Covisint has dismissed 100 to 150 consultants, as well.

Automakers and suppliers can use software tools offered by Covisint in three areas: procurement, supply-chain management and collaborative product development.

During the first half of this year, automakers and suppliers worldwide have conducted 420 auctions on Covisint, representing about $36 billion in transactions.

That is 15 percent of the $240 billion that the Big 3 spend annually on procurement.

Suppliers have posted more than 200 product catalogs on Covisint containing about 2.5 million items.

Covisint claims that 1,000 companies are registered to use the exchange.

Before accepting the Covisint job, English built a financial Internet portal at Credit Suisse First Boston in New York.

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