If it isn't part of the Internet, it doesn't seem to be very important these days. That's especially true in the U.S. auto industry. General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group of DaimlerChrysler have jumped aboard with both feet; every week brings news of another Internet enterprise that promises to revolutionize the way cars and trucks are built, sold, driven and maintained.
Great. We're all in favor of technology. It brought us from the primitive horseless carriages of a century ago to the marvels of today. But we would like to remind the captains of e-commerce that no idea is completely free of pitfalls. For example:
Don't turn purchasing into a price-only game. Although the new Web-based purchasing systems promise to yield huge savings, price isn't everything - quality counts, too. Don't forget what happened to the U.S. industry when quality didn't count. That was less than two decades ago.
Don't drive your trusted suppliers into bankruptcy by heeding the blandishments of cut-rate newcomers who may - or may not - be able to do the job as you wish.
Don't lose the person-to-person contact with your suppliers. We don't mean favoritism or cronyism but a strong business relationship among solid businesspeople to get the job done.
Remember, it's a challenge to maintain the quality and character of a vehicle when you open the bidding to all comers.
If you share your strategy with the Internet, you're fair game for industrial saboteurs. In some circles, they're called hackers. In all circles, they mean trouble.
Automakers have a lot to gain on Wall Street by getting a dot-com purchasing company up and running. But in their haste, they shouldn't undermine relationships with their suppliers.