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Big 3 stick with e-biz programs

DETROIT - Despite the sluggish economy, the Big 3 are still bullish on e-business, saying they have no plans to eliminate or scale back existing initiatives.

While they are unwilling to say e-business is untouchable, each automaker is moving forward with major e-business initiatives.

The automakers say e-business initiatives are reducing their costs, increasing revenues and transforming them into more efficient companies.

"Not only the e-business efforts, but everything in this company will be scrutinized in greater detail than it's ever been done before," said Ralph Szygenda, General Motors group vice president for information systems and services. "But I still believe that digital business, or e-business, will be a major driver of this company."

Two of GM's major e-business initiatives are GM BuyPower, the consumer shopping site, and GM SupplyPower, a supplier portal. GM BuyPower will be in 40 countries by the end of the year, he said.

DaimlerChrysler says that it, too, considers e-business as a strength and foundation that it does not want to disturb.

The exception could be Ford Motor Co.'s personal computer program.

Ford says it is pleased that FordDirect.com, the shopping site jointly owned by Ford and its dealers, is operating in 37 states. And it is moving forward with Wingcast, the joint venture with Qualcomm Inc., which will have a telematics system in Ford vehicles in model year 2003.

But Ford's drive to equip its 350,000 employees worldwide with computers is under scrutiny. The company could save as much as $165 million if the PC program is derailed.

Said Ford spokesman Pete Olsen: "We are now looking at the program in light of the economic situation."

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