DETROIT - Isaac Newton saw an apple fall from a tree and formed the law of gravity.
J.D. Power III saw a bag of apples scanned at the grocery store and created the Power Information Network.
"I had been thinking about this for years when I saw transformation in the grocery industry when they started tracking transaction information by the scanners at the checkout counter," said Power, 70, founder and chairman of J.D. Power and Associates. "It turned the industry upside down."
There's a difference between apples in the store and cars on the lot. That's part of the reason it took nearly a decade - beginning in 1989 - for the system for reporting and analyzing daily sales transaction data to be ready for a 1998 nationwide rollout.
Only about 7,155 of the nation's 22,000 dealerships have signed up to participate. Despite this, the marketing information services company expects the Power Information Network - known as PIN - to become the biggest part of its business.
PIN helps dealers and automakers spot retail trends within days. This type of analysis was helpful in addressing the uncertain economy after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, showing sales plummeting 42 percent by Sept. 14.
"When the sales dropped off, dealers were calling in, wondering how they were doing compared to other dealers," Power said. "So we served as a watchdog as to what was really happening."