SupplyOn, the e-marketplace formed by Robert Bosch Corp., will be operatiing within weeks.
The world's third-largest automotive supplier formed the exchange last summer with German suppliers Continental AG, ZF Friedrichshafen AG and bearings specialist INA Walzlager Schaeffler.
The shareholding structure of the new exchange has not been settled. Bosch is taking the lead role, and the exchange's top executive is Bosch finance boss Claus Dieter Hoffmann.
Besides the founder partners, SupplyOn already has 12 associate suppliers: Mannesmann VDO, Brose Fahrzeugteile, Debussa Metals Catalysts Cerdes, J. Eberspaecher, Hella KG Hueck, Knorr Bremse, Kolbenschmidt Pierburg, Mahle, Filterwerk Mann+Hummel, Phoenix, Webasto and Adolf Wurth.
The associates are all German, but non-German suppliers are invited to join, said Mathias Lober, Bosch's spokesman for economic affairs. Bosch also has linked with German software supplier SAP to get an opening in the emerging automotive e-market.
SupplyOn will function as an online exchange like Covisint, the e-marketplace set up by General Motors, Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler and Renault SA. Lober said SupplyOn will handle transactions with both car manufacturers and lower-tier suppliers.
Bosch has no deadline for moving all of its purchasing to the online trade exchange. But Lober said it may take five years.
He said savings through business-to-business e-markets are obvious but not limitless.
'I think that $431 savings per car that are talked about are rather optimistic since nobody has any experience yet,' he said.
'Benefits won't only come from Internet auctions,' he added. 'We must differentiate between simple parts and engineered components.'
A key element of the new exchange will be to help members integrate with e-purchasing platforms being formed by car manufacturers, Lober said.
Standardization between carmakers' information technology systems will be a problem for the supply industry, say some industry consultants.
Frank Lerchenmueller, vice president of IBM e-business Strategic Market Sector in Stuttgart, said: 'It is our task to glue old and new systems together.
'But it takes time. Suppliers must be able to connect with all of their customers, and their systems have to be flexible.'
But he said carmakers had a responsibility to make things work.
'Though they might have power to enforce new initiatives, they must also re-engineer their own systems to make the transformation to e-business workable.'