Infiniti is preparing to retire InfinitiNet, a homegrown dealer communication and management system that Infiniti dealers have used since the premium brand's first U.S. vehicle sales in 1989.
The system will be replaced in 2014 by a new dealer communication system that the Nissan brand is currently rolling out to its dealers, said Tom Henry, senior manager of national business management for Nissan North America. Infiniti dealers also will have to contract with third-party dealer management system vendors.
There are about 1,067 Nissan franchises and about 197 Infiniti franchises in the United States.
Infiniti dealers heretofore have been limited to InfinitiNet.
Henry said the Nissan system is expected to be fully deployed early in 2014. After that, InfinitiNet will be "sunset" and all Infiniti dealers will get the new system, he said. The plan is to have all Infiniti dealers on the new system by the end of 2014.
A dealer communication system is the electronic pipeline through which the factory and dealers exchange data on sales, inventory, service, parts, warranty claims and other sales and operating functions.
Nissan North America is doubling to eight the number of dealer management system vendors with full connection to the factory, Henry said.
The dealers believe that additional competition will help them negotiate better prices with vendors, which had been limited to ADP Dealer Systems, Reynolds and Reynolds, Dealertrack Technologies and Procede. The additional options are Auto/Mate, AutoSoft, Adam Systems and Automotive Computer Services.
Monthly dealer management system services nationally can range from $1,500 for basic systems to more than $6,000 for comprehensive, high-powered ones. A Nissan spokesman said the costs of InfinitiNet vary depending on when it was installed and other factors.
A dealer management system is the business software of a store that encompasses everything from accounting and payroll to inventory management, finance, service, repairs and customer retention.
The biggest drawback is that InfinitiNet is hard to link with software of other vendors that dealers may want to put in place to supplement the system, Henry said.
As a stand-alone dealer management system, it also makes it harder for dealership groups to compare results of their Infiniti stores with the other franchises in their group that use a different vendor, he said.
On the other hand, Henry said, InfinitiNet has some of the best technology in the industry for managing parts and replenishing stocks.