Trying to counter the notion that General Motors Corp. is a stodgy "old economy" company caught flat-footed by the Internet revolution, Chief Information Officer Ralph Szygenda argues that GM began a company-wide integrated e-business program beginning in 1996 and now is well along in the process of adapting to the new e-economy.

Among the first changes GM began to make four years ago was to spin off Electronic Data Systems and define its future direction internally, Mr. Szygenda tells U-M seminar attendees on Aug. 11. Then it began an overhaul of its Information Technology infrastructure, which required the elimination of nearly 2,500 separate systems. In 1996 GM also began hiring more than 200 of the "brightest, most e-business savvy people" from companies outside the auto industry, and spent $1.6 billion for new e-business application development.

That led to the development of five major Internet exchanges and a number of smaller ones "that create the GM e-company" Mr. Szygenda says. These exchanges aim to deal with GM's relationships with customers at home, work, in their vehicles and suppliers, dealers and employees, he says.

They include:

* GM BuyPower. Started in 1997, it is integrated with dealer inventories and allows potential buyers to configure the exact vehicle they want and find it at a local dealer. It logs over one million visits per month and is responsible for more than 20,000 conquest sales from March '99 to March 2000, Mr. Szygenda says. Other customer-oriented exchanges are GMAC's B2B Credit, which offers real-time online financing to corporations, and GMAC's SmartAuction, which remarkets off-lease vehicles.

* GM's Service Parts Operations (SPO) has two automotive parts sites: and for customers of the distributor/warehouse parts channel and dealer parts channel.

* GM's Hughes Electronics has two systems for consumers: DirecTV, an entertain- ment-based satellite system for television, and DirecPC, a satellite-based high-speed internet connection.

* GM's OnStar in-vehicle communications network is adding 1,500 subscribers per day. Other manufacturers such as Honda Motor Co. Ltd. also plan to offer the service to their customers.

* A relationship exchange with dealers. "Our goal is to give customers a seamless electronic and physical shopping, buying and servicing experience."

* An online relationship exchange for employees called Socrates. Billed as a "self service portal," it gives GM employees information about benefits and training opportunities.