Information technology, however, continues to be a major expense for most dealers. According to a recent survey commissioned by EDS, 78% of responding dealers say IT will be significant in terms of their overall competitiveness in the next three to five years.

In September 2000, Daimler-Chrysler AG, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. released a white paper that may be the most significant work performed in the area of automotive retailing information technology. Yet little to no discussion has resulted from this important document.

Known as Olympus, the document is a collaborative effort to address issues and standards in the area of dealership infrastructure. In fact, Olympus sets a common vision and guidelines for building an Internet-ready dealership network.

I'm first to admit that 80-pages of technical discussion addressing areas such as client hardware requirements, Internet access methods, dealer network infrastructure, wiring standards, network services, dealership security and roles and responsibilities isn't likely to make most readers feel as though they can't put this documentation down.

Information technology, however, continues to be a major expense for most dealers. According to a recent survey commissioned by EDS, 78% of dealer respondents stated that IT will be significant in terms of their overall competitiveness in the next three to five years.

Information technology is a hot topic of discussion at many industry events, at dealer 20-group meetings, and in most if not all automotive publications. So why has Olympus received such little attention? (A Ward's Dealer Business story — pg. 55/Feb. ’01 — focused on it.)

The answer is simple … the topic is boring and for many people, downright painful to discuss. Most dealers and dealership personnel would rather deal with their most irate customer than sit down for some “light reading” concerning firewalls, proxy servers and detailed explanations of IP addressing.

Yet if automotive retailing is going to join the 21st Century and effectively use of IT — and if analog dealers are going to evolve to digital dealers — all facets of our industry (OEM, dealers and suppliers) must be willing to enhance their knowledge base and grow beyond yesterday's experiences.

The Big Three have taken a major step in agreeing on key elements of dealership infrastructure. Through the adoption of Olympus by industry stakeholders, we believe that proprietary and redundant IT expenditures found within dealerships can be greatly reduced if not eliminated. Dealers then will be able to effectively question the IT solutions being proposed to them by not only their manufacturers, but their key IT suppliers.

On the flip-side, if the Olympus document is not reviewed and internalized by industry stakeholders, it quickly will become an exercise in futility with little impact on the IT infrastructure deployed across the automotive retail sector.

Olympus establishes an environment in which manufacturers and their dealer representatives can collaborate in new ways (one of the key imperatives of succeeding in a digital economy). I highly suggest that dealers obtain a copy of Olympus and at least make an attempt to understand its contents. In addition, I propose that at least the Big Three need to provide forums or training environments allowing dealer IT representatives to be educated on the contents of Olympus and the effects this white paper can have on automotive retailing and its supporting IT infrastructure.

The Olympus white paper is available at www.wardsdealer.com.

Reviewing and understanding the concepts and positions outlined in Olympus will take effort by all of us — and it won't be an easy road … but most things worthwhile never are.


Matt Parsons is the vice president of marketing for the EDS Automotive Retail Group.