Ford Motor Co. and Lincoln Mercury dealerships using an electronic parts catalog provided by Dealer Computer Systems likely will need to find a new source for such data, because of a parting of the ways that's led to a lawsuit.

For more than 10 years Ford has licensed its parts data to DCS, which then provided the information to dealers in a catalog called CPD. The contract ended in December. Sources say Ford offered two different options to DCS to continue the contract for either a period of four years or six years.

DCS, a division of Universal Computer Systems, a dealer-management systems provider, allegedly refused, and instead filed a lawsuit against Ford in U.S. District Court in Houston, alleging various antitrust violations.

In an e-mail obtained by Ward's, John Sullivan, manager-parts supply and logistics service and quality for Ford, tells dealers the auto maker would temporarily continue providing data to DCS to give dealers time to assess alternatives.

Ford dealers who are UCS customers tell Ward's they are concerned because of long-term contracts they are locked into with the DMS vendor and wonder if they will have to continue paying DCS for services it is no longer able to provide.

An employee for another dealership says its contract stipulates DCS is not responsible for delays in the parts data.

“Does this constitute a delay, or an inability to provide services promised?” he asks. “It looks to me as if they are out of the Ford parts business.”

An information technology director for one dealer group says he considers Ford's actions to be a favor to its dealers. According to him, Ford already has its own parts catalog, the Ford Catalog Advantage, that provides data to dealership service and parts departments.

Soon, Ford will be able to update the information nightly to their dealers' DMS units. DCS provided data with a two-month lag time, according to dealership personnel.

Neither Ford nor UCS returned phone calls regarding the matter.