"Harold has a chance to reconfigure Covisint and create a new, level playing field," said John Doddridge, CEO of casting supplier Intermet Corp. in Troy, Mich.
Covisint and its financially troubled software partners are a shell of the ambitious service that once hoped to create billions in shareholder wealth while connecting automakers with their supply chains.
Former CEO Kevin English resigned June 28 after 14 months. Covisint's board of directors approved an undisclosed separation agreement, which a person familiar with the deal says paid English more than the annual compensation of any automaker CEO.
"If suppliers had come on board, it would be a valuable exchange," said a person close to Covisint. "The suppliers didn't come on board."
Said Bill Kozyra, president of Continental AG in Auburn Hills, Mich.: "They haven't really focused on supporting the Tier 1 suppliers. That needs to change."
Kutner, 61, the retired head of worldwide purchasing at General Motors, recognizes that. "We need to become more supplycentric, more balanced," he said.
But Covisint has to be more than an auction house if it expects to survive.
Three months ago Alan Turfe, one of Covisint's original co-CEOs, said: "An exchange will not be able to sustain itself by being a reverse auction house. If you look at the mega-exchanges out there today, 90 percent of their revenues are coming from reverse auctions.
"But the issue is: Can you justify being an independent business with a reverse auction functionality, which is becoming more of a commodity every day?"
Covisint's procurement function can be matched by other marketplaces and other software suppliers.
A Covisint spokesman declined to reveal the percentage of its $60 million annually that comes from procurement. In April, English told Automotive News that it was about 70 percent. Some partners in Covisint believe it is higher.
Reverse auctions, electronic requests for quotes and purchases from online catalogs account for most of the purchasing activity through Covisint.
The most popular tool is Quote Manager. Automakers use the tool to create and distribute electronic requests for quotes to suppliers. Automakers purchased more than $100 billion in parts and services using the tool last year.