Covisint, the giant e-commerce portal being developed by GM, Ford, DaimlerChrysler and several other big automakers and suppliers has gotten the lion's share of attention when it comes to e-commerce in the auto industry, but in fact a lot is happening on the lower tiers as well.

A case in point is Nypro Automotive, a Clinton, MA-based molder of precision plastic parts which announced a new "Extranet" program for its customers Monday at the SAE conference and exhibition.

With 26 plants in 12 countries and $700 million in annual sales, Nypro would hardly be considered small by most standards, but it is in the world of automotive suppliers.

And that's what makes its new Internet service special, company officials say. They believe Nypro is the first plastic injection molding company its size to offer such a sophisticated communication system to its customers. Nypro's Extranet is a secure Internet service that allows dedicated online communications between the molding supplier and automakers. Services include 24-hour communications, immediate access to order entry and delivery information, and the ability to exchange detailed computer-aided design (CAD) data. Each customer has its own secure dedicated line.

At its news conference, Nypro also announced the opening of new automotive molding facilities in Brazil and France and the development of a new Technical Center at the company's headquarters in Massachusetts.

Company officials also said they expected QS9000 certification this summer for Nypro's plant in Monterrey, Mexico.