Chrysler Portal Eases Access

DealerConnect is the fastest way for U.S. Chrysler dealers to get to headquarters.

Chrysler dealers in the United States are going through a new portal to get to headquarters: DealerConnect.

"We have everything from ordering cars, looking at warranties, diagnosing cars—all the applications for the dealers—through the Internet. To date, almost all of our [4,200] dealers are on it," said Susan Unger, CIO of DaimlerChrysler AG, in Auburn Hills, Mich.

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DealerConnect replaces a satellite-based dial-up system called DIAL (dealer information access link). "DIAL had too much latency. Information was not up-to-date and it was not browser-based," said Bill Whedon, director of e-commerce and dealer technologies for DaimlerChrysler. The DIAL system was rolled out in the mid-1980s and upgraded in the mid-1990s.

"I dont think you can compare the two. The functionality is much deeper, its faster, its very intuitive. Anybody who surfs the Internet can use it," said Wes Lutz, owner and president of Extreme Dodge/Hyundai, in Jackson, Mich.

"The dealer portal is one of the most important things going on in the auto industry right now," said Mark Bünger, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., in San Francisco.

The DealerConnect portal is a Java-based suite of Web applications. PCs running Web browsers access Solaris servers running applications developed under IBMs WebSphere 3.57 running on IBMs DB2 Universal Database.

DealerConnects sales module enables functions such as ordering cars, reporting sales, tracking incentives and locating cars available from dealers. Another module, TechConnect, is a suite of technical applications that manages parts location, ordering, descriptions and diagrams. A subset of DealerConnect lets customers at a dealership use a kiosk to create sample car configurations.

In addition, DealerConnect is a platform for e-learning. Sales, service and parts employees must regularly take courses to maintain corporate certification. Using the Web permits these workers to take courses at home, Whedon said.

Dealers have leeway, Whedon said, in purchasing their own PCs and arranging their own broadband links.

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