From day one, Covisint has failed to live up to its hype. The online exchange, created in February 2000, was supposed to bring the speed and efficiency of electronic commerce to the auto industry.
But look at the industry today. As long as automakers -- the creators and investors of Covisint -- squeeze suppliers on price and as long as they keep their own proprietary information technology systems and software, Covisint will go nowhere. It always will be perceived as just another way to drive down prices, without removing inefficiencies from a woefully inefficient system.
Harold Kutner can fix that. The former General Motors purchasing chief came out of retirement June 28 to replace Kevin English as CEO. English resigned, citing personal reasons.
Having spent 39 years with GM, the 61-year-old Kutner brings credibility at a time when Covisint is struggling. He helped create the exchange with Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler. Nissan, Renault and PSA/Peugeot-Citroen joined later as minority equity partners.
But plenty of suppliers remember Kutner's tough negotiating style and the way he pressured suppliers to slash prices as GM got leaner in the 1990s.
Kutner can use his no-nonsense approach to his advantage by convincing the Big 3 of the benefits of standardizing their systems and the way they do business with suppliers. The Big 3 can learn from the Hondas and Toyotas of the world, which continue to gnaw at market share. The import brands have found success with consistent, clearly understood and fair engineering and purchasing procedures. And they have a commitment to their suppliers to make the system work for both sides.
Unless the Big 3 realize that and are serious about change, Covisint always will be the white elephant it so far has shown itself to be - a relic from the unrealistic dot-com era.