VDA, the German association of carmakers and suppliers, will investigate alleged abuses in some of the industry's early online reverse auctions.
Some German suppliers have criticized procedures at auctions by unnamed automakers.
'We have received reports from some suppliers who believed the auctions were not handled properly,' said VDA spokesman Peter Tomsen. In the online auctions, suppliers bid on automakers' component contracts, responding to prices posted on the Web anonymously by other bidders.
Tomsen said some suppliers believed carmakers entered false bids to drive down prices, a practice known as bidding from the wall.
'They had the impression that the OEM which organized the auction had been bidding against others just to enforce the lowest price,' Tomsen said.
'We will investigate this and advise OEMs to make auctions fully transparent.'
Tomsen declined to say what carmakers had conducted the auctions or identify the suppliers who complained.
But he said the auctions were not held by Volkswagen's new online trading exchange, nor Covisint, the e-purchasing network formed by General Motors, Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler and Renault SA.
'We will send a letter to all OEMs asking them to take serious notice of such practices,' he said.
Meanwhile, some industry consultants say carmakers are overlooking complications associated with online trade exchanges. The consultants say the initiatives such as Covisint and VW's could lead to job losses and take longer than expected to implement.
And they say the financial benefits are unlikely to be as great as some carmakers have suggested.
One of the problems is the number of online purchasing platforms being created.
'Six months ago, some people wanted to make us think there would be just a single e-marketplace for the industry,' said Frank Lerchenmueller, vice president of IBM e-business Strategic Industrial Sector in Stuttgart.
'But today's reality is that there are already several OEM e-markets, plus some other global initiatives set up by suppliers.'